The Corporate Farming Myth seems indestructible by hard data or even reason. I was reading about how ag singles groups are shrinking and came across this paragraph:
Single farmers face an especially difficult task finding others like them. In recent years, many farm families have sold out to corporations and moved away; the rural population has been gravitating to the cities, leaving small towns to wither, cafes to close, social organizations to decline. Meeting people is harder than ever. [More][My emphasis]Somewhere along the line the concept of large farms merged with corporate. Simply put, big must mean non-family. But this is exactly what isn't happening.
Most U.S. farms—98 percent in 2007—are family operations, and even the largest farms are predominantly family run. Large-scale family farms and nonfamily farms account for 12 percent of U.S farms but 84 percent of the value of production. In contrast, small family farms make up most of the U.S. farm count but produce a modest share of farm output. Small farms are less profitable than large-scale farms, on average, and their operator households tend to rely on off-farm income for their livelihood. Generally speaking, farm operator households cannot be characterized as low-income when both farm and off-farm income are considered. Nevertheless, limited-resource farms still exist and account for 3 to 12 percent of family farms, depending on how “limited-resource” is defined.[More]I think what has happened is farms have been conflated with what most of us would call agribusiness. An amazing number of people I have met think ADM and Monsanto run and even own farms. They also assume large operations have deep operational ties with those links in our chain.
How did this occur? One contributing factor, I think has been our profession's reluctance to be seen as anything other than an agrarian, diversified and nostalgic businesses. We were perhaps rightly afraid of losing public sympathy by showing enormous operations without any puppies or duckies and children bottle feeding calves.
That has changed somewhat, but we are still pretty shy about embracing the large operation as our stereotype. And we are horrified at the idea Joe Taxpayer might discover how freakin' much money we have been making.
This may prove a tactical mistake, as the above article suggest. The connection between "big" and "corporate" is now pretty well fixed in the public mind and being exploited by small farm proponents from local food to organic. The sympathy ploy may have lost its effectiveness.