I just read the article in your February issue by Danny Klinefelter (see “Are 1,000 Acres Part-Time Work?” page 33). I agree with much of what he had to say. However, I disagree with his comment about 1,000-acre farms being “a picture that doesn't represent reality.”
I just looked out my window and it looks very real to me. Irrigation required in this area may make a significant difference, but I work more than 2,000 hours a year growing corn and soybeans, and I believe that to be full-time work. We support our family with this farm and I believe there are many others who do the same.
I know that growth is a continuing requirement to stay competitive in farming, but I don't believe that technology has advanced to the point where one man has to farm 10,000 acres to be considered full time.
Bigger Isn't Necessarily Better
I respectfully disagree with Professor Danny Klinefelter and take to task those in the ag media who bombard farmers with “bigger-is-better” propaganda.
My points are that: 1) there is no magic acreage number that dictates the financial viability of a farm operation; 2) grain farming involves seasonal work and one engaged in that vocation must be evaluated in terms of their employment status accordingly; and 3) it is a fallacy to suggest a farmer with hundreds of acres can readily find off-farm work.
The key, if you are a grain farmer or any other businessman, is net income. There are 500-acre grain farmers who have greater net income than those with 1,500. All farmers have to analyze their operations' viability based on their income potential.
Grain farming involves seasonal work. I don't know of any farmer who feels underemployed during planting or harvest season. The off-season periods are a positive and necessary part of grain farming.
It's not easy to find an off-farm job. When you can find an off-farm job, you are constantly pressured by your employer to minimize your off-work time. (I have personal experience in this regard.)
If you are blessed with the opportunity and desire to farm, farm. Let your own financial situation be the main factor in determining whether your operation is viable, regardless of its size.
I operate, with the assistance of my father and my wife, a 700-acre farm with a small cow-calf herd. I also work full time off the farm.
Not All Farms Are Created Equal
I take issue with Danny Klinefelter's comment that anyone farming 1,000 acres is part time and should have an off-farm, full-time job.
He also says you should be able to plant 500 acres/day. I would like to see anyone plant 500 acres/per day when your fields range from five to 30 acres. We don't all have 250- to 300-acre fields.
I also disagreed with his comment about the Midwestern farmer who said corn should be $6/bu. In 1950, my father sold ear corn at the farm for $2.50/bu. My father also bought a tractor and plow for $1,800. I would also appreciate if Mr. Klinefelter could tell me why tractors and combines are now more than $100,000 and planters are $70,000 when corn is still $2.40-2.50/bu. I know why, but I would like for people like Mr. Klinefelter to realize why this is.
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