Let’s Celebrate You — the American Fruit Grower [Opinion]

One of the things that jumped out at me when reviewing the responses to our now-annual State of the Industry survey — and I want to thank all 632 of you, especially you 429 growers — was how different farming is from other occupations.

It wasn’t so much what was said in many of the growers’ responses, it was the tone. There was a personable feel to them that I just don’t think you’d get if you were surveying accountants, architects, or lawyers.

Why this is so is pretty simple; most farms are family farms. That’s why few things tick me off as much as hearing about anything helping farmers being described by environmental groups, and, even more unfortunately, most consumer media, as “pro-agribusiness.” They make it sound like you’re a soulless, corporate entity. That is, of course, baloney.

This slogan emblazoned on a bumper promoting our magazine resonates as much today as it did more than 10 years ago.
This slogan emblazoned on a bumper promoting our magazine resonates as much today as it did more than 10 years ago.

Consider a new report by the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), which shows not only just how dependent America is on family farms, but also how family farms are independent of government.

While farms are often depicted as benefiting from “corporate welfare” as they pursue “factory farming” practices, USDA’s “America’s Diverse Family Farms: 2016 Edition” tells a different story. Family farms of various types account for 99% of all farms, and those farms account for 89% of all production as of 2015.

Even I can handle this math: The statistic above means that so-called corporate farms actually account for just over 1/10th of our country’s total agricultural output. “Big (Bad) Agribusiness?” I don’t think so.

Another thing that goes under-reported is that 72% of all farms received no farm-related government payments in 2015. All you ever hear is that farmers are on the government dole. That’s especially galling to fruit growers, who are definitely among the 72% who ask no quarter.

The report also notes small farms are more likely to have an operating profit margin. Farm households are generally not low-income when compared with other U.S. households and U.S. households headed by someone who is self-employed.

Sure, not really something to boast about. Unspectacular, but rock-solid, kind of like a lot of growers I know.

Obviously, not all farms are small. But building a small business into a big one is something to be admired, not vilified as “Big Agribusiness.” That sort of thing can happen when you’re successful.

Since 1991 the ERS researchers say farms producing $5 million or more have increased their share of production to 23% in 2015, up from 13%. The mid-range farms with $1 million to $5 million in production rose to 29%, up from 19%.

Consolidation is almost inevitable in today’s business world. But compared to other industries, agriculture — especially specialty agriculture such as fruit growing — doesn’t come close. Most fruit growers, big or small, are independent, often fiercely so.

That’s part of the attraction. Most growers are born into the occupation, the lifestyle. What’s intriguing is seeing the people who have no family history in farming who want to get into the business.

What often appeals to those people is the independence. Is there anything more American than being self-reliant, living off the land? I don’t think so.

So thanks again for responding to our survey, but also for doing what you do, and being who you are.

Happy New Year.

Topics: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fruits Stories
Farm Management
July 24, 2017
American Farm Bureau Weighs in for Grower in Clean Water Act Suit
John Duarte, the owner of Duarte Nursery, one of the largest grapevine and nut tree suppliers on the West Coast, recently gained Read More
Disease Control
July 24, 2017
Researchers Find Detection Method for Crown Gall Disease
Oregon State University researchers developed molecular tools to work with commercially available kits that allow the user to quickly and effectively test plants for the disease, using a dipstick that reveals the presence of the pathogen within minutes. Read More
Citrus
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Beneficial Insect Research
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Citrus
July 22, 2017
Representative from Washington Proposes Amendment to H-2A Program
Move broadens use of H-2A to all of agriculture to include those with multiple crops and harvests. Read More
Hurricane Matthew satellite image as it brushed past Florida
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a Notch
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Sunset on Florida potato field day
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Places for Growing Produce
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This Week
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
farm hacks collage
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your Farm Hacks
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Fruits
July 14, 2017
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Predator Egg Mass Found
Samuri wasp parasitized egg mass found in Southern New Jersey peach orchard. Read More
Rain drops on leaf
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Winning at Water Quality
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opinion]
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
2015 FFVA Annual Convention crowd
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association Convention Agenda
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
Beet-armyworms-on-a-tomato-plant
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibalism, New Study Shows
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Organic Production List
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
darkwinged fungus gnat larvae
Fruits
July 12, 2017
How to Deal with Annoying Fungus Gnats on the Farm
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this insect pest. Read More
The Latest
Fruits
July 25, 2017
Michigan’s a Hit with Tree Fruit Growers
International Fruit Tree Association’s annual summer tour draws nearly 250 attendees. Read More
Farm Management
July 25, 2017
Grants Allocated to Tackle Changing Clim…
Projects designed to develop new approaches to mitigate effects of changing growing environment. Read More
Farm Management
July 24, 2017
American Farm Bureau Weighs in for Growe…
John Duarte, the owner of Duarte Nursery, one of the largest grapevine and nut tree suppliers on the West Coast, recently gained Read More
Disease Control
July 24, 2017
Researchers Find Detection Method for Cr…
Oregon State University researchers developed molecular tools to work with commercially available kits that allow the user to quickly and effectively test plants for the disease, using a dipstick that reveals the presence of the pathogen within minutes. Read More
Citrus
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Benefic…
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Citrus
July 22, 2017
Representative from Washington Proposes …
Move broadens use of H-2A to all of agriculture to include those with multiple crops and harvests. Read More
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a N…
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Pl…
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This …
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your …
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Fruits
July 14, 2017
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Predator Egg …
Samuri wasp parasitized egg mass found in Southern New Jersey peach orchard. Read More
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Win…
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opin…
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Ve…
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibali…
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Orga…
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
Fruits
July 12, 2017
How to Deal with Annoying Fungus Gnats o…
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this insect pest. Read More
Business Planning
July 11, 2017
Young Florida Farmers Ready to Take the …
As growers age, the next generation is stepping up and stepping into leadership roles on the farm. Read More