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TONY MELTON; Feeding the world

TONY MELTON; Feeding the world

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I love small farms, agritourism, and pick-your-own operations. They are great ways for small farmers to survive in today’s tough farming environment.

If you get a chance, please go to a certified SC Grown market and pick-up the freshest fruits and vegetables possible. These are beautiful, romantic, and picturesque scenes of American agriculture along with making a terrific field day for your family.

However, do not be deceived. All these local small farms only feed a small part of the 336 million Americans. Larger farms are the major source of all our food. Unlike what the news industry wants you to think, these are larger farms mostly owned by families, not large corporations. Most have worked their butts off, spent every second/dollar/ounce of their strength, and worried/planned/borrowed to get where they are. Therefore, farming is the leading occupation for suicides.

Larger scale is important for these farms to cope with our volatile agricultural, business, and natural environment. It is a turbulent situation for the American farmer with supplies, prices, weather, markets, labor, etc., fluctuating on a per minute basis.

It takes a lot of money, land, machinery, and expertise to farm. When you drive down the road in your new, fancy, luxurious car and come up behind a farmer driving a piece of his equipment, don’t put down the farmer. That piece of equipment can be worth 10 to 100 times the price of your new car. For instance, one of the large family-owned vegetable farms I work with has about $500 million in equipment not including 10,000 acres of land. Remember how much you paid for the quarter acre you put your house on.

In other words, farming is not for dummies, cheapskates, or the faint of heart. Please don’t show your ignorance by putting up a sign that reads “I want small farms not factories.” Now that I have made most of you upset, just think of the 9 out of 10 neighbors you would like to starve-to-death without larger farms. A farm is a plant factory with inputs, labor, byproducts, and a supply-chain.

Also, it keeps prices to minimum so ordinary folks like me can afford to eat the best meats, fruits, and vegetables in the world. I cringe every time I hear a news reporter talk bad about the wonderful, plentiful American food supply, the best on earth. Please buy organic or fresh if you can afford it because they have higher margins of profit for farmers. But if you cannot, still eat healthy meats, fruits, and vegetables. Canned, dried, or frozen meats, fruits, and vegetables are mostly processed the same day they are harvested – saving their flavor and nutrients for you to enjoy.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.

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