Time to Get Real about the “Family Farm”

I’ve had it with all this talk about “saving the family farm!” What’s so special about the family farm? Nobody gives a rip about the disappearance of the “mom and pop” store. I don’t hear anyone singing the praises of the “family blog.” So, why do we have this sentimental attachment to the family farm?

The latest pabulum comes from Tim Kaine, as quoted by Chris Graham in the August Free Press: “What I want to do as governor is to organize my agriculture policy around a simple principle, and that’s to do what we can to save family farms. I started to really focus on this as a main goal, more than increasing output or increasing percentages or the tonnages of soybeans or other products. I want to focus on saving family farms.”

Here’s the reality of farming in Virginia. Outside of a few niche products, farming is not profitable! It requires long hours of hard work, and the return on investment is lousy. Virginia simply lacks the competitive advantages that farming has in other states, particularly the Midwestern breadbasket. Most Virginia farmers still working today fall into one of two categories: (1) Old guys who’ve been farming all their lives, and (2) affluent farmers who raise grapes, horses and cattle as part of their patrician lifestyle.

If farmers’ children don’t care about saving the farm, I don’t see why state government should. As far as the patrician farmers, god bless ’em. They maintain beautifully manicured estates that the rest of us can gaze upon as we drive through the country. But I don’t buy the argument that semi-retired financiers from New York are worthy of state support.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


  1. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Ben, Jerry, and Willie Nelson have made a living trying to save the family farm. Do you want to put them out of business?

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Will, I hadn’t thought about it that way. All the more reason to dump on family farms.

  3. Steven Avatar

    ‘Good Copy’, RTD columnist Jeff Schapiro wrote last Friday about his favorite subject matter, Democratic Tim Kaine: “Visiting the farm owned by one of Goochland’s most prominent families, Kaine also endorsed repeal of the estate tax, saying it would make it easier to preserve family farms for future generations, rather than sell the land for commercial or residential development. Kaine said the rollback should be coupled to the ongoing elimination of the federal estate tax. The federal rollback, however, expires in 2010.”

    Oh where, Oh where are my little sheepish ‘class warfare’ Democratic bloggers now? Oh where have they gone…


    Better yet, where does incoming DPVA chairman, Dickie Cranwell, stand on the VA estate tax issue and saving family farms?

    ~ the blue dog

  4. Steve:

    Hmmm. Since Warner supported a partial repeal of the Estate Tax, I’m not sure why we’re supposed to be outraged by Kaine’s position.


    Don’t forget Tobacco farmers! Don’t they make money?

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I’ve gotta say, if Kaine is in favor of repealing the estate tax, more power to him! Maybe he’s serious about promoting small business.

  6. Steven Avatar

    Paul: Remember, I was hammered a few weeks ago by bloggers about the estate tax?

    I do. Ouch!

    ~ the blue dog

  7. Barnie Day Avatar
    Barnie Day

    JIM: please identify the $100 million in cuts you’d make to accomodate elimination of the estate tax, or the $100,000 million in taxes you’d increase elsewhere to replace the revenue generated by the estate tax.

  8. Scott Avatar


    Eat local food.

    If there is one unquestionably good thing we can each do, it is to try to shorten the distance between farm and table.

    Grow your own food, if you can, but many of us aren’t in a situation to do much gardening, much less become self-sufficient. The next best route is community supported agriculture.

    Also known as CSAs, farms which participate in community supported agriculture sell you food directly, bringing you boxes of vegitables every week in exchange for your direct financial support. Everyone wins: your local farmer gets much better prices for her produce than she’d get by selling it to a corporate middleman, and you get fresh, wholesome (often organic) veggies that you can enjoy in the warm glow of having done the right thing. And usually those boxes of food are a great value.

    The problem is that word, boxes: often, getting a “share” in a CSA means getting boxes and boxes of food — mounds of zucchini, mountains of kale — which is great if you’re feeding a large household, but the size of the average household has been dropping in most urban areas in the developed world, and there’s no way a single person, or even most couples, can eat their way through such a pile of produce.

    That common dilemma is what’s brought Full Circle Farm to start offering flexible CSA memberships for singles:

    Members can sign up for a week or a year, and everything can be done online. “Belonging to Full Circle’s CSA is very easy and affordable because you pay by the box,” explains Elizabeth Blessing, a single, 27-year-old nutrition educator and Full Circle Farm CSA member. “I tried to join another CSA once, and I just couldn’t pay that bulk sum at the beginning of the season.” A full-season subscription can run as high as $600 for a weekly family-of-four box. Full Circle’s flexi-boxes, by contrast, run $25 to $45 per week, with every-other-week packages available as well.
    That kind of technologically-empowered flexibility will not only help the CSA model spread, it also heralds a major aspect of the future of sustainable cities: the move from buying products to using services. Such product service systems all get easier as cities grow more compact and as information tools grow more efficient.

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Scott, I love the idea of Community Supported Agriculture — as long as it’s market-driven. I wouldn’t even have a problem with a little state support to get these co-ops up and running. But they have to prove their value, and they can’t be put on permanent life support. Indeed, I might even discourage the government from getting involved. Had the state been promoting CSAs, Full Circle Farm might never have come out with the innovations that it has.

  10. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I think this is an area where we need to be very careful. “Saving the Family Farm” has become a code word for preventing sprawl and low density development. If, indeed that is the goal, then it is no less valuable to preserve the manicured estates than it is to preserve the ramshackle habitats like mine where people manage to eke out a few thousand a year.

    There are a few commercial farms that make a lot of money, if you count federal crop subsidies as making money. Around five percent of farms make 95% of all farm profits and nearly all the federal subsidies.

    At the next tier are farms that struggle by, and make fair money in a good year, but where natural, family, or health disasters are a real problem, and maybe a show-stopper. I regard these as the true family farms.

    Some farms are farms in name only. These are farms where the farmers are astute enough to know that the way to lose the least money is to do the least required amount of farming that will get them into the land use tax program. They may be inherited land where the younger family members have no real interest in farming as a business, but, under land use restrictions are prohibited from doing anything else, yet have no reason to move out, either. Land purchased and deliberately held for speculation may also fall in this category.

    Many “farms” are landless. These are going businesses that in fact make good money, and some commercial farms even fall in this category. What this does is eliminate the biggest part of the ROI problem – the land. Some of these are really farm maintenance businesses – specialized landscape companies that maintain and operate the estate farms. So while a new york financier may be getting the breaks, it is still some farmer that works the land.

    The vast majority are farms that have lttle prospect of ever making money and rely on off farm income. These cover a wide varity of situations, and it is easy to dismiss them as estate farms. These farms may be incubators for a niche business designed to become a second career, like dog breeding, pony therapy, flower catering, mulch and topsoil, nursery and bedding plants, or farm equipment repair and trading. Some families have extensive garden and animals to augment their weekly shopping, and rely considerably on their own resources. For some, these activites are also entertainment, so if the amount of money they sink in the farm is equivalent to what others spend on entertainment, the farm losses are not all losses, and may contribute greatly to the local economy.

    Then of course there are the fabulous estates. One such place near me makes a big deal out of promoting organic and sustainable farming, which is fine, and I agree we shouldn’t have to poison the earth to grow food. But one look around this place made me realize in an instant that it could not possibly be sustainable, absent the owner’s wealth. However, the information it provides might open up a few more niches.

    I saw an ad for a farm manager for a 50 acre “farm” and one of the requirements was that he be able to manage a staff of 20. It hard to see what kind of “help” such an operation needs from government, but it is difficult to separate them out, also.

    There are various kinds of economies associated with what we generally call the family farms, (Anything other than commerical farms dealing in hundreds of tons of commodities.) Many of these economies apparently support mostly each other, so while the farm trade is large, it’s net output is small.

    We have a strong sentimental attachment for the perception of farm life, but I don’t have too many volunteers showing up at the gate to actually experience it.

    Then of course there are all the external benefits: a ride in the country would’t be the same with out the farms, of various kinds, including the estates. Urban areas depend on rural areas for more of their existence than we recognize, yet the city slicker/hillbilly sterotype persists.

    If you pull, or fail to make sufficient the “breaks” that make all this psossible, all that cash rotation in the farm economies stops. The environmental and habitat support stops (although some of it is not all that great), and the marginal value of the land for anything other than sprawl goes away.

    At the same time, if you morph from five hundred acres, to 250, to 175, to 50 acres, you eventually get to sprawl, and then to infill. The unfortunate corollary of the idea that urban areas are the most valued is that it puts pressure on rurals to become to become urban.

    I pay taxes on my house and two acres at the same rate as anyone else. Then I pay additional tax, at a lower rate, on the rest of my vacant land. Is that a tax break, or a tax penalty? Is it a break for the pleasure of having my own private dog walk, or a penalty for preventing the requirement of new county services?

    If you want to have balanced communities, one thing you will have to balance is the ability to gain wealth. If you want to prevent sprawl you will have to make farms and open space more valuable, not less. But with more and more people crammed into inadequate housing, and paying high urban tax rates, any attempt to do that will be seen as patronizing the patricians.

    But, if farmers wind up paying additional fuel tax to build more Metro stations to subsidize urban land developers, then they are not going to be happy.

    If every farm is sneeringly seen as an estate, then how does the concept of affordable housing apply to affordable estates? Shouldn’t some people have the opportunity to live in the country at below market rates if we are going to provide that opportunity or city dwellers who otherwise can’t afford to live there? What happens to the balance?

    We have to figure out what our goals are: preventing sprawl, preventing property rights injustices, promoting commerce of all kinds or just the sexy, urban kind. If you want to save the countryside, the family farm, the hallowed ground, the historical heritage, the flora, fauna, wetlands, streams and hillsides, then it is going to cost a lot of money, so we should be sure about what it is we are trying to do.

    If patricians own it all and take care of it for us, that’s one solution. If Government takes it all and makes it available as parks, then that is another. Making sure the people that own the land and take care of it for us can make a living such that they don’t have to give it up to the patricians is another.

  11. republitarian Avatar

    Jim , since I grew up and still work on my family’s farm I have to agree with everything in your post. The other states do have an advantage on us in terms of production.

    I think the reason some people want to save the family farm is because some people still want local food. It would not be wise to become totally dependent on other food sources.

    Oil ring a bell.

  12. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I don’t have the numbers, but some incredibly small amount of our arable land produces all our fruits and vegetables, like 2%. Even if you throw in all the foreign land used to produce food for the American market, it might be 5%.

    Fruits and vegetables can’t sustain our farms, even if everyone was willing to trade a surprise box of whatever happens to be avilable for making their own choices at the supermarket.

  13. subpatre Avatar

    Sharp contrast with your former post on ‘Saving Hallowed Ground’, Jim. Farms, most of which qualify as family farms, are far more of Virginia’s heritage and history than the swath you previously endorsed. Nor is protection of farms as classist an idea as the proposed ‘preservation’ of the upper-crust Piedmont’s property; farming runs the entire socioeconomic spectrum and offers equal opportunity back-breaking work and heart-ache!

    Virginia’s certainly moving toward a service economy, but don’t confuse yourself that it all must change. Material production still has a place in the state and will continue to thrive; Lightsey’s startup is one good example that we’ve discussed. The trick is to produce something that others can’t, or can’t compete with.

    In agriculture, even commodity products may be viable. F’rinstance, no country on earth can produce poultry as cheaply as American (Virginian) farmers. Though industry integration is more akin to the 19th century coal barons, the actual cost savings is accomplished primarily by the growers, who are primarily small farmers. A recent proposal for biodiesel production is another example of commodity production by small farms.

    Other examples abound in the farming community; Salatin’s proved that non-elite specialty markets are viable, there’s about a dozen more wineries starting in the lower Shenandoah, and Valley farmers grow ‘horse hay’ for additional cash where it’s trucked as far as Indiana and Maine.

    Here’s the reality of farming in Virginia…. not profitable, etc etc. Your argument would hold water if Virginia didn’t already stick a heavy hand into the equation. Virginia severely restricts small farming. It subscribes to the “big business” model of the mid-20th century, in which farmers are ignorant peon…uh, I mean persons, who must sell to government approved middle-men before the food reaches a consumer.

    Recent changes make it worse: economically crippling small poultry operations by mandating per-bird testing while exempting the huge integrators; expanding the definition of “dairy” (and the associated requirements) far beyond recognition, additional biosolid (manure) storage and handling mandates unrelated to pollution or health, Etc etc etc. All contain little or no additional burden on large-scale producers; all impose significant (additional) burdens to small farms.

    Here’s the reality of farming: Virginia has made it unprofitable. Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn’t. But any discussion about markets or profit must include the state’s heavy hand, which coincidently favors development.

  14. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Subpatre: Once again you said it better and more succinctly than I.

    “Where does the public interest lie? When economic and sociological values are taken into account, is it better to have a farming sector of proprietary farmers who provide most of their own labor as well as capital and management? Or is there nothing to fear from a class-stratified agriculture — either one of tenancy as farmers work the land held by absentee landlords, or one of industrial corporation control through contract in which “farmers” are essentially wage-hands?” Briemyer & Frederick, University of Missouri Extension.

  15. Interesting discussion. I must agree with subpatre that saving farms goes hand in hand with promoting smarter land planning. Open space is usually one of three things:

    1. Farm land
    2. Federally owned land
    3. Privately owned land with a conservation easement on it

    Since it’s doubtful that the federal government is ever going to purchase large swafts of farm land (it’s not exactly a tourism attraction) promoting farming helps save open space.

    Is saving open space something we want to do? To a certain extend, I suppose so.

    When I say “promoting farming” I’m obviously talking about government subsidies. And I’m REALLY uncomfortable with the amount of subsidy in the farming industry. Clinton cut subsidies and Bush brought them back. What other industry relies so heavily upon government money? Health care and defense come to mind…

  16. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Almost all the subsidies go to commercial/industrial farms – not to family farmers. Between 1979 and 2002 71% of subsidies went to 10% of farms and 3% of farms generated 62% of all production.

    Taking the subsidies away might be one of the best things to happen to family farms.

    SubPatre touched on some of the larger issues. “Safety” regulations have prevented many family farms from entering some businesses, yet they are a modest problem to industrial farms. Arguably, we have a safer food supply, but is there a way to achieve the same result without putting farms out of business or markets? One result of this is that farmers work as contract suppliers.

    Industrial farms my dump tons of waste on the environment in concentrated areas, but if a family farmer needs to split off a lot, then that is an unacceptable externality. Or, if a family farmer is found with an environmental problem, it may be waived in return for a conservation easement.

  17. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Wow, there’s loads of really well informed commentary here. Where do I begin?

    Subpatre, you’re right, I am someone at odds with myself. I am trying to balance two clashing principles. Farms are worth preserving because they create a positive externality: desirable vistas. At the same time, I see no reason to subsidize or support “family” farms over any other kind of economic enterprise.

    One could argue, for instance, that the Bacon’s Rebellion blog and e-zine offer positive externalities, too–they constitute a small busines that creates a forum for intelligent discussion of public policy. But that doesn’t justify subsidizing it with state funds, positive externalities notwithstanding.

    Furthermore, you are correct to state that the poultry industry is profitable. And new technologies like biodisel fuels may come to the rescue of Virginia farmers. If so, that’s great. I’ll be happy for the farmers. If not, too bad. I still see no reason why the “family farm” deserves any special dispensation.

  18. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ray, I agree with you 100 percent on the issue of subsidies for industrial farms. No justification for it whatsoever.

  19. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Smarter land use planning has nothing to do with saving farms, as far as I can see.

    1) If 3% of farms are producing 62% of output, then we clearly have excess farms that are making it harder for the remainder to be profitable. What is smart about saving them? Well, someday we might need them, and it is dumb to build on our best farmland.

    2) Saving farms is synonymous with smarter land use planning only if you think keeping open space is smarter planning, in which case you are not interested in saving farms, but saving open space, why put up a red herring to confuse the issue?

    3) Not only do we not need anywhere near the farms we have, we don’t even need the all space for more urban-style growth.

    4) Urban areas are suffering from many problems, among them congestion, that can only be solved with more space.

    5) If the idea is to grow food near where it is consumed, then let’s tear up some land that needs to be re-developed anyway and turn it into urban farms. (This has actually been done.)

    6) To the extent that we do need more land for Urban development, let’s do it the smart way, with many smaller towns (adjacent to where the food is) designed to prevent congestion from the ground up. Put jobs in the small townsm make walkable communities, Blah, Blah, Blah. But since we need a relatively small portion of land to do this, smarter planning has almost nothing to do with saving farms. It has to do with smarter planning.

    7) If farms have to depend on a free market in order to exist, then that can’t happen if the land market is tightly controlled in order to save farms we don’t need.

    8) We still need the open space, but we need houses, right now, more than we need vegetables.

    9) People in town are envious of farmers who they perceive as getting big tax breaks and subsidies.

    10) People on farms are envious of peole in town making double digit advances on their houses.

    And yet people somehow say “we” want to save the family farm>

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t farms (big, small or otherwise) value-added land uses at the local level while suburban developments, featuring the small lot, are net losers (something along the line of $1.20 back in services for every $1.00 in tax revenue) for localities?

    If so, seems to me that localities need to revaluate thier land use policies so that farming is encouraged, instead of just waxing poetic about the loss of the small farmer, while propping up policies that drive rampant amounts of development by devaluing the practice of farming.

  21. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Well, that’s right. My community is fond of saying that Farms pay $3 in tax for every $1 ins services, and that’s why we have to save these farms!

    As noted above, the starting point is I pay my fair share, then I pay extra for all the vacant land they want to save. Meanwhile they are subsidizing the folks in town that they don’t want to come anyway. When I pointed out that this was upside down, I was called a liar and an idiot.

    When I started my tirades with EMR it was because I perceived the arguments as internally conflicted. However, I don’t know how to resolve the conflicts without deleterious results.

    Maybe the industrial farm subsidies are worth while in themselves, merely because they make the cost of food so low we can afford to blog.

    Maybe, if the farmers are going to be excluded from all the value added that comes from urban development, then it IS reasonable to pay them just for being in the business of providing vistas. It is not a cheap business to be in.

    Besides, we need enough land to filter the water, and enough vegetation to clean the air. We need the spiritual lift we get when we visit, and the family farm is a social unit, not just an economic one.

    If Metro is a giant subsidy for urban development, how do rural folk get something back in return? How is it different than farm subsidies? Problem is, if Metro is a cash sink, then there is nothing to come back. If the family farm is a cash sink, there may be no way out of that, either, yet we apparently need Metro AND Open Space.

    I don’t think it has to be that hard. I sell a lot of hay, but have no way to transport it out of state for higher prices. If PEC or the county wanted to help, they could set up some kind of brokerage to match those with excess hay with markets and transport, which I am just to small and busy to deal with.

    We used to have something like that, I think it was called Haymarket.

  22. subpatre Avatar

    Paul, part of the point above is that the “state” [Fed and Commonwealth] are playing the take-away-give-back game. To a large extent subsidies are needed to equalize penalties the exact same principals enacted! The setup stinks.

    With all the tripe about “open space”, I’m looking for a more precise term. Open space includes golf-courses, race-tracks, or baseball fields; almost anything that’s not a building.

    Jim, biodiesel is just one tool of many. But the main point is that to make biodiesel you plant, harvest, and squish soybeans; add some lye and you have a saleable product. This is different from other food products that need 394 steps to navigate the state’s bureaucracy of Health, Ag, and Consumer; all of which demand rote compliance (few results-based regulations here) and reams of non-tax paperwork. In Virginia you can’t buy good chicken (or beef or lamb or cheese or..) from a responsible grower without performing a legal two-step.

    As far as I can see, Virginia small farmers are not asking for subsidies. They want freedom (a L-word site) from European-style bureacracy and (the ability to use) market solutions to health challenges. Small farms are small businesses, and should be treated much the same, not with the over-regulated atmosphere they have to operate in now.

    There are reasons to preserve the family farm: healthier food, more food choice, more responsible use of land, diversified economy, disaster protection, etc. “1:59 PM, Anonymous” is correct that despite lower revenue from ag land, studies in Augusta indicate a large net loss from housing and a net gain from the ag. IMO the Republicans hurt themselves on this one, eliminating Fitch before his ideas got debated; not that Fitch had a chance of office, but the establishment camp doesn’t seem to have any ideas, much less good or new ideas. Mebbe Kaine will prod somethng from them.

    Real steps to protect Virginia agriculture as it changes to its new economy will be difficult. We’ve protected (two) apple processors from Chinese competition, just so Virginia can employ more imported workers; yet innovation in a free market apparently needs little or no such protection!

    PS: Ray, if it’s just a case of need then Kansas wheat will do, and you can live off of white-bread alone. It’s Pablum even if Jim’s alternate spelling is allowed. But that’s not the case: people want wine and cheese and all sorts of delicious foods. Virginia farmers should be allowed to produce, free of land-use and bureaucratic threats.

  23. “Maybe the industrial farm subsidies are worth while in themselves, merely because they make the cost of food so low we can afford to blog.”

    Ray – my understanding is that farm subsidies make food MORE EXPENSIVE by crowding out foreign competitors. Is that true?

  24. I wasn’t trying to imply that I wanted to save open space as a general policy. I was just saying that for those who support smart growth or other forms of urban/suburban planning, saving famrs is important because it keeps growth from spreading further into formerly rural areas. We all know that.

    Now the interesting thing about opening farming up to the true free market is that food has a highly inelastic demand curve. In other words: demand doesn’t respond very much to price increases. Government intervention is most needed in areas where consumer demand is inelastic. Areas like health care, electricity, air (we keep demanding oxygen whether it’s costly to keep it in the air or not), food, etc.

    The question is: What kind of government intervention? How much government intervention? That’s what the political parties argue over.

  25. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Barnie, I dispute your assertion that we’d have to make up $100 million. You’re using static analysis. I guess I’m using “cold fusion” analysis that takes into account real world behavior. Cut the inheritance tax, and you’ll get a lot of people moving from Maryland and D.C. into Virginia because they want to remain in the Washington metro area but prefer our zero inheritance tax for estate planning purposes. Those people will pay their income taxes in Virginia, enriching our treasury…. And that doesn’t count the fringe benefits of the tax-paying business enterprises their trail along with them.

    If, after a proper econometric analysis, we decide that elminating the estate tax represents a net gain to the treasury, then I would suggest phasing it out over four-five years to minimize the disruption.

  26. subpatre Avatar

    “….food has a highly inelastic demand curve” You’re correct when you talk about straight commodities: wheat, pork bellies, and beefs. That’s the pablum, that’s the Kansas wheat. If you drink “red” with your meal, “red” will do. Other places can most probably make “red” better than Virginia, and I wish them well.

    You’re not correct regarding MooManor(tm) beef, pasta wheat, or Smithfield hams. These aren’t straight commodities. They’re good food, tasty beef, delicious pasta and ham. If you want a nice merlot, not “a red”, then Virginia can offer something as well.

    In the non-commodities, this example of Asian pears was planted 15 years ago. The fact that most of an orchard can be sold out a year before harvest says the “inelastic demand” theory is no longer true. Too many other Virginians are also making good, demonstrating that the entire market is not much more than a collection of niches.

    For better or worse the industrial age is falling behind us and the old commodity markets are going, going, gone. Consumers want –and their new economic prosperity allows– access to products our parents only dreamed of, food that cost a days wage in days now gone. There’s nothing, except outmoded policy, that keeps a Virginian from outperforming Ben & Jerry’s with a better product: we have better dairy and better fruit than Vermont could ever produce.

    (yes Jim, it’s a bit of plagairism, but you deserve it)

  27. subpatre:

    that’s a good point about “good” foods. I didn’t think of that.

  28. Bob Griendling Avatar
    Bob Griendling

    “Cut the inheritance tax, and you’ll get a lot of people moving from Maryland and D.C. into Virginia because they want to remain in the Washington metro….”

    You’ve got to be kidding, Jim. People with both big and modest estates know how to shield it. They’re not moving to a new state to escape estate taxes.

  29. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Bob, How do you think people with large estates shield themselves against taxes? One of the most important ways is by choosing their residence. Why do so many rich people maintain a residence in Florida? Not just for the climate.

  30. Bob Griendling Avatar
    Bob Griendling


    Maybe it is the climate. Maybe not. I’d just like to see some hard data that this happens rather than anecdotal evidence. Do you know of any such data?

  31. Doug W. Avatar
    Doug W.

    For a thoughtful insider’s view of family farming, read the estimable Victor Davis Hanson’s memoir, The Land Was Everything. He submits that family farms produce citizens like no others, and that we all are worse off as they fade away.

    The book’s a little dark here and there, but as Hanson fans know, he’s never wrong about anything except macroeconomics…

  32. subpatre Avatar

    VDH is brilliant. If it hadn’t been for the coincidence of the WOT, he’d have rivalled Mary Renault. Perhaps after it’s over he can get back to his outstanding classics.

    Like others above, I don’t believe Virginia’s farms have much of a future as basic food (commodity) suppliers. Because he was (is?) a commodity farmer, Hanson’s own picked review of The Land Was Everything describes American agriculture’s outcome as ‘…a tragedy.. foregone conclusion”. Fields Without Dreams is (IMO) better as it has Hanson’s thoughts about the government’s role in the preservation and destruction of American agriculture.

    Both are great books. To quote a reviewer, “I’m a fan of this gallant classicist-farmer curmudgeon, though I don’t agree with all he says.”

Leave a Reply