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Can the Small Farmer Still Succeed?

Dr. David Kohl
Educational Opportunities: 
Young, Beginning Farmers
Home > Education & Events > June 2018 > Can the Small Farmer Still Succeed?

Hi, I'm Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus and academic hall of famer in the agriculture and economics department at Virginia Tech, down in Blacksburg, Virginia. The main question today that I received from a producer, is can a small farmer make it in today's economic environment?

We're seeing mass consolidation of the agriculture industry, but there's still a place for the small farmer; because one of the things that a producer has to do is define what success is. I had a 700 acre producer say to me the other day, "I can't compete against the three or four thousand acre farm”. But he could, because he and his wife had an off-farm income and one of the things is they were leaking out a profit, and they were raising their children, and I asked him "What more could you want?" Again, one of the things that you have to do is to define your success. Often times our small, agriculture producer will be in niche markets, capitalizing on some of the major mega trends that are impacting agriculture like organic, natural, local, or point of origin.

In addition, one of the things that I find about the small farmer is that they're very entrepreneurial; they're very astute at the marketing component, and so whether it's a small farmer or a big farmer, usually you have to have the big four. In other words, you have to be good at production. You have to be good at marketing. You have to be good at finance, but then you also have to put a system together that is compatible with the resources and management talent that you bring to the business.
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