A wise prediction of the family farm from 1972

by Greg Booher
Agricultural Journalist & LTC Farm Business Instructor

Much has been said and written especially in agricultural circles, about the family farm. We do have much to be concerned about with increased restrictions, requirements and the price squeeze which affect the family-sized farm with its limited resources. Please do not stop reading at this point – read on.

The high cost of overhead, machinery, labor cost, property tax etc. has forced many farm families who love farm life, to supplement their income with part time or full time jobs or leave the farm all together. And yet, with only 4-5% of our population engaged in agricultural production, we are feeding ourselves and contributing greatly to underdeveloped nations’ food supply.

A few years ago Paul C. Johnson, editor of The Prairie Farmer, in an address before the annual conference of the Michigan State Cooperative Extension Service, said among other things, “I believe that we have a right to decide whether the family farm can be retained as a basic unit in agricultural and a sustainable force in rural life and leadership. But first we must get rid of the notion that the unit can be the same size it was 50 years ago. The family farm must be large enough to give full employment to the family with a full complement of modern machinery and equipment. In fact, it seems logical to me that the ideal farm should employ two families in order to give greater freedom of action and to facilitate the transfer of the business from one generation to the next. Yet, this two–family farm should be a busy and productive unit with enough pressure toward effi- ciency so that the family farm is a constructive unit in our society. It is with great reluctance that I look ahead to the possibility of agriculture being organized on industrial lines.”

Of course, the two-family farm is not new to many families. We have seen several examples of father-son farming operations with one or more farms working together as a single unit. This is an excellent way for a young farmer to grow into the business and build up equity in land, livestock and machinery.

This, of course, takes a lot of give and take on the part of the two-families as is the case with any partnership. As the father gets older, the son gradually takes on more responsibility, initiative and leadership, and in turn his son grows up ready to become a partner when his father and grandfather takes on full retirement. The fly in the ointment here is when the older man is not willing to relinquish responsibility and refuses to hand over the reins to his son.

Our Amish brethren have practiced this method for many years. In this way, a young man who loves the land and wants to farm, can get a start where otherwise he might never be able to have or own a farm. After all, there is a lot of culture in agriculture!

I can’t take credit for what you just read as I did not pen the insightful narrative. What you just read, was written by The Country Parson, Selected Readings from The Country Parson, page 196. The Country Parson was the pen name used by Reverend Russell Hoy who was a Methodist pastor from the eastern Ohio community of Canal Lewisville. Reverend Hoy was my wife’s pastor, Deborah Dunlap-Booher, when she was a school girl and Reverend Hoy also married us several decades ago. What I find so astonishing is that Reverend Hoy wrote this article for The Ohio Farmer in 1972. Pastor Hoy wrote for the Ohio Farmer from 1945 through 1991.

The reference to Paul Johnson’s speech is so very true. Mr. Johnson was the editor of the Prairie Farmers from 1947 into the early 60’s. It has been my privilege to share the amazing insight of these two proponents of rural life who were at the dawning of the 19th century.

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