Small Farms Are Real Farms

By Nancy Smith,

Secretary, Farm to Family Naturally


Is it any wonder that most people are confused about our food system?   It’s hard to know what a farm is.  The factory farm model is one which has produced unsafe food that has no taste, and the small family farms are few and far between.  Still, the future of humanity is still as dependent on real farms today as it ever was.  We can ignore natural law but we can’t ignore the consequences.

I recently attended a talk by John Ikerd, professor emeritus of University of Missouri, and he’s given me permission to share his thoughts on the subject.  John, who is an expert on rural economics and rural sociology, has written a book called Small Farms are Real Farms and I’d like to share some of the enlightening points he makes in the book.

To clarify our thinking regarding the definition of farming, let’s go to the dictionary where we will learn that the roots of the middle English and old English words for farm are all related to concepts like earth, social, spirit, feast and stewardship.  So far, it’s not sounding much like a factory farm.   But it does sound like an independent family farm which raises a diversity of crops and livestock, lets the waste from the livestock return to the soil to enrich it, and which enables the family to enjoy a healthy and rewarding lifestyle.

Perhaps we can gain some understanding of the differences between factory farms and real farms if we understand how profit is determined on each.  Commodity farms rely on large quantities of product which are sold at low prices.  Continually increasing productivity (volume of products) is the only way to get ahead, and the farmer and his family become prisoners of the system.  In our country today, the most egregious example of this is the farmer who raises poultry under contract to a large corporation.  The farmer doesn’t own the chickens, has to raise them according to the corporation’s idea of productivity, and can lose everything if he does not adhere to this factory-farming system.  Contrast that with a real family farm which is raising a few hundred chickens on pasture, letting the family learn good values by providing the labor of caring for the chickens and preparing the eggs and meat for market.  The difference will be evident in the good health of the chickens which translates into tasty, healthy food for the table.  The pricing system is completely different.  This farmer has learned to add value to the product and is able to charge a higher price more directly, thereby increasing the percentage of profit.  If you taste the difference between an egg from pasture-grazed chickens which are not “on drugs” and the sickly looking and tasting commodity egg you will begin to understand what makes a “real” farm-and be willing to pay the difference.

Sappington Farmers Market is proud that almost all the eggs we carry are from Missouri’s family farms.   Come taste the difference and rest assured that your family is eating safe, healthy food from “real” farms.

Sappington Farmers Market is located at 8400 Watson Road between Elm Ave. and Laclede Station Rd. www.sappingtonfarmersmarket.com.