All this week, I’m taking some time to talk about independence and how it relates to your health.
And today, I’m focusing on Thomas Jefferson’s original idea of an agrarian democracy, where citizens live off their own land, growing their own foods and medicines. The Amish continue to live this way today. And they’re among the healthiest people on the planet.
The good news is, according to the latest census report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), these small, independent farms are making a comeback all across America, including at our own summer place. So, perhaps, there’s still a bit of hope for the rest of us to live healthy, independent lives—just as Jefferson envisioned. (But without having to give up our automobiles and electricity!)
USDA census holds promise for the future of farming in America
The USDA census is the most accurate and detailed look at the complex agricultural sector in the U.S. And when it’s released every five years, it makes for big news, especially in Florida where agriculture is a big industry, together with tourism.
My family also takes part in the USDA’s agricultural census, when requested, as we have a small business with boarding, training, riding, and leasing horses. My daughter also started a small-scale farm at our summer place in New England (I’ll tell you more about that on September 2, when the harvest season gets underway.)
Now, before I delve into the good news hidden inside of the new 820-page report, let me touch on some of the concerning findings from the latest census:
- All categories and kinds of mid-size farms declined during the past five years.
- The average age of people engaged primarily in farming got older.
- Net income from farming in 2017 is down 45 percent from 2012.
- The total number of operating farms dropped 3.2 percent to 2.04 million.
- Total land area farmed dropped 1.6 percent.
- The average farm size increased by 1.6 percent to 441 acres.
- The number of dairy farms dropped by 15 percent from 2012.
- Overall, just over 105,000 farms produced 75 percent of all sales, down from nearly 120,000 farms in 2012.
These grim findings come as part of a trend that began almost 30 years ago, indicating that mid-sized farms are being swallowed up by corporate giants. And it appears to be harder than ever to make a buck in family farming.
Small, organic farms owned by younger folks on the rise
On the other hand, perhaps in reaction to this trend to consolidate, the new census still held some good news:
- The number of small farming operations (less than nine acres) skyrocketed by 22 percent from 2012 to 2017, up to more than 273,000 farms!
- The number of farmers younger than 35 years rose 11 percent to about 285,000, matching the growth in smaller farms.
- Younger and beginning producers, defined as those with 10 years or less experience in farming, now make up 27 percent of all farmers!
- Organic farmers jumped from about 14,000 to 18,000—an increase of 29 percent.
- Total sales of U.S. organic products more than doubled since 2012!
Now, don’t discount the importance of these small, organic farms. My grandfather had an 11-acre farm that supported a family of 14 people during the Great Depression and through WWII, with extra eggs, milk, butter, and ham for the neighbors. My uncle still runs that farm today. He switched to organic and grass-fed more than 10 years ago.
Plus, while the average age of all farmers is getting older, the number of young farmers in the U.S. is also growing. And this suggests that younger farmers on small farms are making a difference.
What’s more, Americans are clearly demanding more organic produce and free-range, grass-fed, organic meats, as sales have doubled over the last five years!
The USDA decried the loss of midsize farms and the declining total number of farmers on these farms. But I choose to focus on the positive. This trend has made room for increasing numbers of small, local farms and small farmers, with rapidly increasing production of organic foods.
And I truly believe these small, local farms hold the key for Americans being able to move away from consuming harmful, ultra-processed foods manufactured by the crony corporatist big food industry.
It seems in more places across the country, Americans will have the option to buy eggs, cheeses, cream, meats, and produce from small farms in their own communities.
(You can learn more about the dangers of eating foods produced by the big food conglomerates in the current June 2019 issue of my Insiders’ Cures monthly newsletter [“Three science-backed steps you can take TODAY to boost your brain and defy dementia”]. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now’s the perfect time to get started. Click here now!)
And that’s just the lay of the land as I see it.
P.S. Tune back in tomorrow for more about how Thomas Jefferson helped shape dietary traditions in America.
“Advocates hoped census would find diversity in agriculture. It found old white people.” Washington Post, 4/13/19. (washingtonpost.com/business/2019/04/13/advocates-hoped-new-report-would-find-diversity-ag-it-found-old-white-people/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.822e25ec058f)