On Thursday, the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance held another food dialogue, and a Hoosier farmer was on the panel. Held in Boston, the dialogue brings together farmers, consumers, activists, and food industry representatives to discuss some of the more controversial issues in food production today. Thursday’s discussion focused on the size of US farms, Are there too many big farms? Should we have more small farms?
Bruce Rominger, a large fruit and vegetable producer in California, said big farms are not bad farms, “I think we can make the argument that we have a small carbon footprint for the amount of food we produce. On our farm, we are planting hedgerows; we are investing in high tech irrigation systems; and, as a result, we can produce more food with less water and in California that is a big deal.” He added that larger farms can employ experts to improve their operations and keep their environmental impact safe.
Bill Lucky, a corn and soybean producer in Nebraska, said size is relative to what you produce and where you produce it, “In Western Nebraska, you need a lot of land for a cow-calf operation. While in the east as a row crop farmer, you can average 500 to 1000 acres.” He said topography and weather also dictate the size of an operation.
Hoosier farmer Leah Beyer says small farms can be very efficient. She said her small Shelby County farm allows her to opportunities that a larger operation could not, “One thing you can do with a small farm is you can do unique things. You can buy smaller packages of seed or even special seed that a large farm could not.” She added that sometimes she can get good deals on leftover inputs from large farms because she only needs a small amount.
The two hour discussion which was streamed live on the internet also covered sustainability, urban farming, hunger, and the concept of “food justice.” Beyer shared how Indiana farmers and farm groups are involved in feeding hungry people and working with food banks. She said these kind of dialogues are vital to keeping lines of communication open between producers and consumers, “Our agriculture and food system will continue to be the best in the world because we are having these kind of discussion about GMOs and antibiotics. We are going to continue to do what is best — not just for our farms, but also for the people who eat what we produce.”
Watch the dialogue here