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Should we all be farmers?

Theo Scholze for Progressive Dairyman Published on 20 April 2017

A popular thought in the ag world is that we need to be concerned about how to increase production in order to feed the projected 9 billion people on the earth by 2050. Much research has been put into how to increase production, which has yielded spectacular results in many different commodities.

As a result, it would seem that there is currently an oversupply of most ag commodities leading to depressed pricing, which is causing more and more farms to turn to off-farm income to help make ends meet. This, coupled with two local milk processing plants notifying some of their farms that they will no longer be accepting their milk, has led me to question the validity of needing to continue pushing production levels versus looking at improving distribution of what we have.

By doing a small amount of digging, it is easy to find some startling facts. Currently worldwide, one-third of food is lost or wasted while overconsumption of food is common in developed countries, especially the U.S. Simple math will then tell us that we are already producing enough food for 9.5 to 10 billion people, obviously more than enough for the current and short-term future world population.

Research further and you will find that large amounts of land in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe are underutilized based on their production capabilities in current ag knowledge and technology. There is also rapidly improving technology, autonomy and A.I., which will continue to allow us to continue to produce more with less and most likely will end animal agriculture for commercial purposes within two generations. I think it may be time to look at production ag more critically.

Clearly it would seem that we need to look very hard at our mindset of trying to keep farm numbers where they are and to look at what we can do to truly help feed the world. I personally know of farms that are struggling mightily with their finances, and I would imagine that is a common scene across the country. I am baffled by the mentality to hold on for dear life, causing financial, family and mental anguish that is unnecessary. Some of it is caused by the intense pressure to not be the one who failed or lost the farm, but as an industry we clearly have no problem with production but have a problem with distribution.

So if your legacy is to leave the farm and have a positive influence on the rest of the food distribution system, wonderful, do it. To me, this is no different than what we have seen in many retail areas; the Walmarts and Amazons of the world have eliminated many small family-owned retail stores. But generally most would say that we are better because of an increased access to lower cost goods delivered to our door, and I would venture that there is no reason that we cannot move that way in food production/distribution.

In conclusion I think that all farmers should take a very hard look at their career choice and make sure that there is long-term viability to what they are doing, both in the here and now, as well as into retirement and transfer to the next generation. If you can be honest with yourself and make the correct decisions, I believe that you can have a longer lasting and better legacy than trying to hang on to a misguided notion of “this is my heritage.”  end mark

Theo Scholze
  • Theo Scholze

  • Dairy Producer
  • Humbird, Wisconsin
  • Email Theo Scholze

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