Corporate vs. Independent Farms
Right now, the face of farming is changing. Over the past decade, the environment has become a top priority for governments around the world.
Until the 20th century, farmers worked hard just to feed their families, which were often very large to provide the farm with more workers. Much effort was put into figuring out how to make farms more efficient. Today, tractors and other equipment, fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, and pest control methods have all made farming what it is today. Because of that, the food industry has been able to expand, giving us major corporations like McDonald's, Hatfield, and Kellogg's.
While it has been a good thing for farms to be able to produce more food faster, this has also led to a number of problems involving animal cruelty, destruction of the environment, and food safety. So, the face of farming is changing once again, and as an agricultural worker, you'll have the unique opportunity to be a part of that revolution.
Farms can be split into two categories: corporate farms and independent farms.
The vast majority of farms in this country fall into the corporate category. Now, many of these farms are still owned by families, and you'll work for those individuals, rather than a company like Purdue. However, all of the resources on these farms belong to a certain corporation. The farm is under a contract to produce just for that one company.
When you work on a corporate farm, you have to play by their rules. Most of this falls on the shoulders of the owner of the farm, but as a worker, whether you're feeding livestock or planting crops, you'll be required to follow a certain process. Corporations need the products to look and taste the same no matter which farm produces them, so they have policies that must be followed.
Independent farms, on the other hand, do not supply food for a single corporation. These farms have become increasingly rare, since it is difficult to support a family with the money that can be made on this type of farm. They do exist, however, and working on one of these farms is often a much different experience, since there's no need for food grown or raised in Pennsylvania to taste exactly the same as food grown or raised in Iowa.
Many independent farms focus on organic and natural farming methods, which mean that production is smaller and prices are higher. Consumer demand for natural products have slowed the disappearance of these individual farms in the past few years, and we're seeing a move away from the major corporate farms. Undoubtedly, though, most farms still are under contract with large companies. In fact, over 750,000 family farms have closed or sold to corporations since 1981, according to reports.
So what does that mean to you as an agricultural worker? There are certainly more jobs to be had working at corporate farms, and your work there is more secure, since the money coming into the farm is more secure. On the other hand, many people find it more rewarding to work at an independent farm, since they are often more ecologically responsible and focused on community sales. Do your research on what is available in your area to find the best work environment for you.
Further Reading:F.A.R.M.: Families Against Rural Messes
Center for Rural Affairs: Corporate Farming