Are all farms today factory farms?

Posted: May 14, 2018

Answer: Farms have gotten bigger and have become more efficient (like factories) due to farm equipment, technology and economics. But the majority of farms are still family farms.

Many times the term “factory farm” is used today to describe modern farms in a negative way. It is understandable. After all, over the last few decades, the number of farmers has declined while the size of farms has increased.

Barns, grain bins, farm equipment and machine sheds that looked big 60 or 70 years ago are dwarfed by the ones used on today’s farm. It would be easy to think all farms have gone corporate. But, that is not the case. 97% of farms are family owned and operated.

Farms have gotten bigger over the years due to two main driving factors – advances in equipment along with technology and economics. Over time, tractors, planters and combines have grown in size and much technology has been added to allow farmers to do more in less time.

Economically, a dollar does not go as far as it once did, so in order for a farmer to provide for his family, he needs to raise and sell more grain and livestock. Also, globally we need to continue to produce more to feed the world. The advancement of equipment has allowed us to do that.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a factory is “a building or set of buildings with facilities for manufacturing.”  “A productive place.”  A farm is likely the oldest example of a factory. The fields are factories (although there is no roof on them) producing crops. That big old red barn was a factory that churned out meat, milk and eggs. While a few of those barns are still part of the production system, larger, modern, and more efficient barns and buildings have taken their place.

Just like new factories in other industries that provide a good place for people to work, today’s barns are climate-controlled, cleaner and allow a farmer to produce more meat, milk and eggs with less labor. All while providing a comfortable environment for farm animals.

The fields may look like they did in the past, but they are modern, too. GPS helps guide equipment through the field and precisely place seed and the appropriate amount of fertilizer so maximum yield can be achieved with the least amount of cost.

The term “factory farm” should not be seen in a negative light, but rather should be looked at like any other modern factory that produces anything from cars to phones to candy. It is clean, efficient and produces items that have quality and value which are needed by the world.

Carl Heide – Fourth generation hog and grain farmer, DeKalb