The past few years I’ve heard the term “Big Ag” thrown around as if it’s something to be ashamed of or shy away from. Where I’m from, agriculture is the #1 industry in the state with 1 in 4 jobs relating to agriculture. According to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska’s farms and ranches utilize 45.3 million acres – 92% of the state’s total land area. So, yes—farming and agriculture is “big” here. However, “big” does not mean bad. The farmers I get to meet and interact with across the state live and work on family farms. They care about their land, their livestock, and their communities. Naturally, some farms are bigger than others, but all farmers struggle with the same sense of uncertainty and face the same business challenges. Those challenges include raising funds, managing employees, paying taxes, and keeping up to date on the latest research.
Another challenge is growth. As family farms become more efficient, growth is certainly bound to happen. It’s true that many farms have experienced growth, but we are experiencing the natural factors of efficiency. That growth can allow farmers to utilize better technology, increase safety measures and provide better training for employees. We are also seeing that farmers are increasingly more educated, with many having advanced degrees in agronomy. These impacts, among others, should not scare us about the safety of our food, but should call us to understand what happens on farms as more of our population is distanced from the role of a farmer. My hope is that consumers will seek to learn how farming happens and they will grow less fearful of the process.