Agricultural Reflections

Ben Schmidt 
OSU Extension Agent, Paulding Co.

Every once in a while we should stop and reflect on life and the world around us. It is really important to have time to reflect so that one can put things in perspective. It just so happens that I have been doing a lot of reflection on agriculture lately.

The reason that I have been spending some time thinking about agriculture should come as no surprise to most people. Agriculture is changing. You know what, it has been changing for the past 50 years or even longer. Parts of agriculture are undertaking changes that any rational business would do in a capitalistic system; they are becoming more efficient in order to maintain profitability while producing a commodity product. 
Large farms (or factory farms as some like to call them) have been forming as early as the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Actually, farms have been consolidating. Do you know who created some of the first large farms? Grain producers. Think about vegetable producers; they have some rather large farms! But, do we consider grain and vegetable farms factory farms? We should if we are to label medium-large sized livestock farms as factory farms. Grain producers are efficient and, after all, that is what a factory is all about.

Ohio livestock farms began to consolidate in the 1980s because consumers demanded low-cost, high-quality products. First to consolidate in the livestock sector were the chicken farms, followed by turkey farms, then beef and pork. Currently, dairy farms are catching up with the rest of the agricultural community. Why are dairy farms consolidating? For the same reasons that grain and other livestock farms consolidated: efficiency. Do you know who is contributing to farm consolidation Take a look in the mirror and you'll find the answer.

Consumers are one of the most powerful forces in our economy. Consumers can make or break a business by choosing to buy or not to buy a product. From choices that they make, consumers are casting a vote for or against a certain business. Consumers are, in effect, creating large farms from the choices that they make and the products they demand. That's a huge responsibility that was given to every consumer by the founders of this country we call the United States of America. Do YOU know where the milk that you buy comes from? The grocery store is not a valid answer! Do you know where the chicken that you buy comes from? Do you know the origin of the cotton that was used to make your shirts? Do you get the idea? When you buy a product, you support how it was produced.