Sustinable Farmers Are Going Out of Business in the Missouri Valley

Will this child grow up to own this land?

Ours is an old story, but it’s still not easy for me to tell. My wife and I are 74 years old and live in the Kansas City area. When I was a child my grandfather helped my parents buy an 80-acre farm near Omaha. This farm is now certified organic. Later on, they bought a half-section of pasture near Massena, Iowa.

But today, these farms are too small to make money in organic and conventional markets. In other words, there is not enough profit to bankroll a young farmer(s) who would own and operate our farms This means that when we pass, our farms will be sold, probably to a large farmer/landowner or non-local corporation. Either way, these farms will most likely go back to non-organic corn and beans that will be fed to livestock, exported to Mexico or turned into ethanol. And most important, the little kid shown above will do the farm work, but never own the land.

No Black Hats

Before I go further, keep in mind that there are no black hats here. We (farmers, investors, lenders and consumers) are all in this together. Next, while farmers understand this story in detail, big city consumers do not have a clue.

The Prevailing Land Ownership Story

Consumers do not understand how current land ownership trends affect the environment as well as food prices and quality in big cities and small towns. This land ownership story has four chapters:

  • Technology (machines and livestock confinement)
  • Markets (commodities)
  • Environment (water, soil, wildlife)
  • Money (non-local)

A New Story

Once consumers begin to understand the old story, we can work together to write a new one. The new story line will feature skilled farmers, ranchers and gardeners who own land and pass it on to the next generation in the same community!

We want to share proven, practical ways to build strong local food economies, based on farmer-owned land and local food brands. If you belong to a church, civic organization, PTA or business group, please contact me to arrange an informal presentation, at no cost.

Jim Steffen


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