News | May 10, 2017
A Farmer’s Perspective on Corporate Farming
Farmer Brandon Whitt has a theory about corporate farming.
“Farming isn’t suited for a corporate environment,” said Whitt, who farms with his family in Tennessee. “I have to have the ability to make a decision and do it in a timely matter. My family and I are the ones living on the farm. We see and know the farm every day. Waiting for a management decision would be inefficient.”
That’s not to say Whitt doesn’t rely on agricultural corporations as a farmer. He has a good perspective on working with others throughout the food chain. As a corn, soybeans, sorghum and wheat farmer, he relies on grain elevators, food processors, food companies and grocery stores, for example, to take his crops and make food to sell to consumers. Whitt also grows strawberries and raises hogs, which he sells from a country store on the farm directly to consumers.
There are many people and corporations involved in the food system, and it’s a relationship among farmers, agricultural corporations, food companies and, ultimately, consumers.
“Folks should know farmers have good relationships with the entire food chain to make sure we have a product and a place to sell goods,” Whitt said. “And those who take our product after harvest are providing a safe and reliable product for the grocery store.”
The phrase “corporate farming” rankles Whitt. It’s a misconception that has been used and abused by people who are opposed to larger-scale agriculture. The reality is that 97 percent of America’s farms are owned by family farmers. Part of the misconception may come from the fact that most family farms, are, in fact, listed as limited liability corporations, or LLCs. Farmers do this for ownership and legal purposes. For example, Whitt’s farm is an LLC, because there are several family members who are part-owners of the farm.
“I tell consumers that it’s OK to think of a farm as a business,” Whitt said. “That means we are taking our job seriously, because we are trying to make enough money to stay in business and grow crops that end up on consumers’ plates. If we don’t, we won’t be as successful as we could be in growing food.”
Whitt wants consumers to know that his family is responsible for the daily decisions made on the farm, not anyone from Monsanto or other agricultural companies.
“When we sit down at end of year to plan for next year, there’s no one from a corporation holding our hands,” Whitt said. “We sit down as a family to make the decisions. We make the personal decision to plant 1,000 acres of corn or 500 acres of corn and 500 of soybeans or 1,000 acres of sunflowers if we really wanted to. We can do what we want to do, but we do take guidance from other ag professionals to make educated decisions — people from corporations, universities, our local co-operative, farmer neighbors. Many factors that go into the decisions we make.”
Whitt’s farm is part of the 97 percent of American, family-owned farms. Learn more about how these farms play a key role in delivering balanced meals to our plates on this video: