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I think it is much easier to get out of farming with no money, than to get into it. In the US, policy has punished rural communities and farmers for a long time:


Mind giving some highlights because all I hear are about farm subsidies and never about any policies that hurt farming.

1. Anything that drives consolidation of land towards a few large landlords hurts farming. This is a story as old as time, as wealthy land-owners end up buying out small farmers (Or, in older days, driving them off at sword-point and gunpoint.) In today's day and age, fiscal policy is often a culprit for this.

2. Enforcing compliance with basic laws hurts farmers. It's not clear to me that it's currently possible to operate an American farm both legally, and profitably. Laws that farmers are likely breaking have to do with employment, immigration, animal cruelty, and pollution. Compliance with all of this will drive your expenses up, and you out of business. This is a classic case of a prisoner's dillema - your competitors, who break the law, will undercut you, if you comply with it.

3. Larger farms with better access to capital are often better suited to take advantage of government subsidies.

4. Farming is incredibly risky. Your margins are razor-thin, and your yields and revenues are entirely at the mercy of the weather, and the capriciousness of your incredibly expensive equipment. Large, well-capitalized mega-farms are better suited to weather runs of bad luck, then smaller, family-ran ones.[1]

[1] Not to mention that many family farms rely on family members to operate. And if uncle Bill ruins his back on the job, in June, he's not going to be in shape to work at harvest time...

In my country (Oz) it's the same story. Families who've owned properties for generations can't keep up with the mega-corp style of farming, particularly when drought, or other semi regular calamity hits. A mega Corp can go into 'the negative' during these times, but only really experience a 'blip' on the balance sheets. A family farmer will have a 2nd/ 3rd mortgage rejected, when only a generation or two previously they had no debt whatsoever.

Governmental help comes in the form of lacklustre subsidies, or too small and too delayed financial aid, while at the same time providing massive grants to companies that are in the agri business system.

One example is the legislation of allocating "water rights" to the main river systems here, all of which has caused farms to go bankrupt, the middle men to get rich and we now have increased rice (!! Rice in Australia) production.

> Families who've owned properties for generations can't keep up with the mega-corp style of farming

You'll notice that families who've been cobblers for generations can't compete with Nike on price, either. Economies of scale and international wage arbitrage really matter.

On a grand scale, it's the same with car companies. People have started car companies (Tucker, Bricklin, DeLorean, Tesla), but they usually underestimate by a factor of 3 or more how much money it really takes to do it.

Sounds like it's still a problem with farm subsidies, just that they're not going to ALL farms?

Here's a primer on the 1980s farm crisis under Reagan, which Nixon teed up in the early 70s.


Perhaps the present day answer to "How to Get into Farming with No Money" is "bring a little money, and before you can even get started, you have no money after complying with US policies". Does this mean present day US farming is a venture optimally structured for very large, very highly-capitalized, very politically well-connected corporate behemoths?

Economies of scale destroyed small farms.

As with most small businesses ; larger competitors have both economies of scale in business dealings — and, more importantly — economies of scale in compliance with government requirements.

For example, the accounting and bookkeeping manpower and expense consumes many full percentage points of a small businesses’ gross revenue, while virtually none of a large businesses’ revenue (fractions of a percent).

Of course, large enterprises can - and have - lobbied the government to pass “think of the children” laws against all manner of evil, which they themselves can trivially absorb with their full time legal and accounting staff. The slobs on the family farm - not so much.

Until government compliance is priced at a percentage of gross revenue, nothing will change, and small competitors will be extinguished - to the delight of the conglomerates.

Economies of scale destroyed small buisness owners in general. It's probably a bad thing, competition wise. We're at the point that having two companies in a sector (AMD + intel) is a surprising and lauded achievement in keeping a the marketplace competetive.

At least these days. I sadly don’t think much of this advice is usable in terms of finding someone to take you in, give you feed and room and board and money.

Most farmers where I grew up—even smaller farms hired temporary workers and gave them bunkhouses. At the end of the season they went off and brought the money back to their families—money not worth much here but worth a lot back home.

The advice about seeing value in redefining objects for their other potentials is great though. One I grew up with. Maybe something quite valuable to the high (read: even higher) consuming culture of the present.

Interesting read.

Can you clarify that bunkhouse point? Isn't getting a bunkhouse and pay similar enough to what the author had suggested? Or do you mean that you'd not be competitive with salary demands if you were to stay on-site year round and deal with local costs?

The author is talking about farms where there exists an original farm house that has since been super seceded by a nicer house. Thus there is in effect room for a while second household. A bunkhouse will have little more than a bed.

In effect the author is talking about a by gone era when a single family would do or could do all the work on a farm. Since then average farm sizes have gone up. Wages have gone down, and work is done by either by machines, chemicals, or low skilled hired hands.

Also new in the past five years has been extreme appreciation on the value of farm land. Farm land is now getting treated like forest land was a decade or so ago where a bunch of university funds and PE speculated. Now is not a good time to try low scale farming.

Right. I'd figured that a single person could deal with a bunkhouse and basic food while they were starting out, but that wouldn't always give you room to stockpile stock over the years.

Yeah what I meant by bunkhouse is more or less a converted trailer with a row of bunks like a low-rent dorm but cheaper and all of the workers share the same room (or were split between trailers) with shared facilities. These could take forms other than trailers but often they were built cheap and only suitable for growing and harvest season habitation.

The impression I got from the author was more of a single family dwelling.

sadly here in NZ, prime ag and farm land is now getting sold for housing as thats a great way to cash up and get out

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