Last Tuesday was a big day in our house as my two little boy’s spring and summer break came to an end and back to school they went. Although some different, because of precautions made for Covid-19, things felt mostly normal in my little hometown in rural Missouri, as we dropped the boys off for the first day of school. The biggest difference was not knowing if the tears on the mom’s cheeks were from being sad, or out of pure joy that after five months of being teacher, mom, wife and in many cases business woman, that the kiddos were finally going back to school.
Like many other families, we too capture the first day of school with a mini photoshoot where the boys hold a chalk board displaying what their favorite things are as well as what they want to be when they grow up. To moms, this is an adorable keepsake, and to dads this is a perfect opportunity to capture something embarrassing they can use against their kids in years to come. In the section “what do you want to be when you grow up” this year for both my 3rd and 1st grader it was an easy answer…Farmer. For a farming dad who has been heavily involved in agriculture all my life, this provides a mixture of emotions, from proud and excited, to nervous and worried. There is nothing I want more then for my boys to be involved in agriculture, but I also understand the challenges that are ahead because of the swift changing landscape in production agriculture.
There are currently 2 million farms spread across the USA. 98% of these farms are operated by families, just like mine. Although 2 million sounds like a huge number, it is a stark decrease from the peak of 7 million farms less then a century ago. Less than 2% of the U.S. population consist of farm and ranch families, which has created an unfortunate disconnect between rural farms and urban life. Today, one farmer feeds 166 people annually in the U.S. and abroad. By 2050, when my boys are my age, farmers will have to grow 70% more food than what is produced now to feed the worlds growing population, and it will have to be done on millions of less acres. From 1992 to 2012, 31 million acres of farmland was lost to development, which is 175 acres lost each hour. Keep in mind the average U.S. farm size is only 225 acres. Production agriculture alone contributes over $132 billion to the US economy. However, after accounting for input costs, farmers and ranchers receive only 8 cents out of every dollar spent on food by consumers. I share these statics to help paint the picture of why I am both proud and excited, as well as nervous and worried that my little boys want to grow up to be farmers like dad. No doubt there will be a continued great need for farmers and ranchers to feed the rapidly growing population of humans and pets, but there is also large uncertainty as you look at prices paid to farmers, increased regulations and negative perceptions from misinformation.
These uncertainties are some of the reasons I am proud to be a part of Renew Biomass. Tune in to our next blog to see how we at Renew Biomass help provide local farmers with a sustainable crop, and a profitable market to help offset some of these uncertainties.