A common misconception that those outside of the agriculture industry tend to believe is that crops and livestock are raised on large scale “factory” farms. When in reality, 97% of all U.S. farms are family-owned, a statistic reported by the United States Department of Agriculture.
This misconception led to my decision of interviewing my grandfather about the history of our farm. I would like to share with you the story of how my grandfather started farming and how it has grown to become what it is today, a small family farm.
In about 1936, during the Great Depression, my grandfather’s grandparents lost their farm in Iowa so they decided to move to Illinois and become tenant farmers. They eventually started renting farm ground from Babson Farms which is who owns all of the land my grandfather farms now.
After the majority of my grandfather’s family decided to quit farming, his father took over and they moved to our main farm in 1947. Together, they started with just 320 acres of land. My grandfather graduated from high school and was working at a fertilizer dealer when a farmer in the area retired, so Babson Farms started renting more acreage to him. He bought a tractor, a plow, and him and his father rented a combine. He raised hogs and cattle while also working as a mechanic at an International Harvester dealer. They acquired more and more acreage and were able to purchase more equipment. His father eventually retired and my grandfather took over the farm.
While raising their kids, my grandmother stayed at home. She made their clothing by hand, canned and froze food, and took other steps to save money so that the farm could continue growing.
Once his son, my uncle, had graduated high school and bought his own tractor, my grandfather let him farm 80 acres, gradually earning his share of the farm.
In the 1980’s, crop prices were very low. My grandfather was trying to send my mother, aunt, and uncle to college so working off farm was essential. Many families lost their farms at this time because the crop prices were so low that they could not make up for the expense that comes with farming.
At this point during the interview I asked what kept him from selling the farm and why he kept farming through the hard times. His response was “It was extremely difficult but farming is all I have know since I was small. It is my passion. It is the type of environment I wanted to raise my kids, and now my grand kids around. Farming helped me teach my kids the value of working hard for the things you want in life.”
Today, my grandfather and uncle farm 2,000 corn and bean acres. This year is my grandfather’s 50th year of farming.
Family-owned farms are the heart and soul of the U.S. agriculture industry. Many of these farms started with nothing, made it through very difficult times, and continue to thrive because of the passionate families who run them.
Pictured above is my grandparents, David and Susan Foster
My name is Megan Knight and I am from Ashton, Illinois. I am a senior at Western Illinois University studying Agriculture Business. My passion for agriculture stems from my grandfather as well as my time in my high school FFA and I can not wait to turn that passion into a career after I graduate. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!