It is with inspiration from an excellent article written by Marlys Miller, an editor for Pork magazine, that I write this post. The article does a great job of clearing the air and posing the question of what it is that actually defines a family farm. I've thought a lot about this very subject this past semester and found that it is more helpful if a consumer can be welcomed on to a family farm to learn first hand how they would categorize it. So without further ado, I welcome you, to my family farm.
This is my family's farmstead. It is located 5 miles outside of the bustling metropolis (sarcasm) of Satanta, KS. My father is the 3rd generation of Rooney's to work on the farm. This google map is not exactly current because there are cotton modules sitting in the field west of the house (cotton is harvested in late fall) and we have yet to replenish the hay bales this season (we bail corn/milo stalks and that won't happen until harvest early this fall) that are sitting in the middle of the lot in this photo.
Rooney Agri Business is what my family's farming operation is called. It consists of 3 equal partners - my dad, my uncle and my grandmother. We have 4 hired hands who help with the daily tasks on the farm.
We grow corn, milo, wheat and cotton. Most of our land is irrigated with pivot irrigation systems and located in Haskell, Grant and Stevens counties.
My mom helps keep the books for the farm and argues with dad when the office gets too messy. When we were younger all of us kids helped dad out on the farm. He liked to make us walk sprinklers and change nozzles, "for fun!"
We also have a herd of registered Maine-Anjou cows. We are able to utilize the dryland corners off of dad's farmland by letting the cows graze the wheat in the winter into early spring. We also calve all of our cows out on the corn stalks close to the farm. This provides extra feed for the cows during the colder months and a warm, dry bedding for the baby calves.
My family takes pride in our farm, they have for several years and will continue to work hard to keep it viable for future generations. We have a large operation that covers a lot of acres and feeds a lot of mouths, but that doesn't mean we still aren't a family. It is easy for me to define the parameters a family farm and dispel the idea of factory farming because I grew up with it. For an average consumer, it's not as black and white.
Family farming is alive and well in the U.S. You can not judge by the number of acres that are worked to give scope to a farming operation. The best way to find out is to see whose hands are doing the work, and on 98% of American farms in 2007, those hands belonged to the family.
All my best,