Blessed are the hands: ‘There is still room for the little man,’ says speaker at monthly breakfast celebrating local farming – Salisbury Post
Blessed are the hands: ‘There’s still room for the little one,’ says speaker at monthly breakfast celebrating local farming
Posted at 12:05 AM Sun Mar 19, 2023
Salisbury — In a state where the number one economic driver is agriculture, Rowan County is leading, ranking in the top 10 in cattle, dairy and wheat production.
A special guest from the North Carolina Farm Bureau joined the Power in Partnership’s annual “Tribute to Agribusiness” Breakfast at West End Plaza to discuss how farmers can stay afloat in an ever-changing landscape.
Jake Parker is the North Carolina Farm Secretary and General Counsel, and on Thursday, he was the keynote speaker for the annual event.
The NC Farm Bureau is the largest public farm advocacy organization in the state. Founded in 1936 as a nonprofit organization, the Bureau serves farmers and provides a unifying voice for the interests and needs of the farming community.
Parker explained that these needs are changing as traditional farming families give way to economies of scale that are better able to weather market fluctuations. He is optimistic about the future of cultivation, even if it comes with some challenges.
“There’s still room for the little guy,” Parker said. “At the NC Farm Bureau, we represent farmers of all types across the state. There will be larger producers. They’ll generate most of the food and fiber anyway, but there are places for small farmers, and they definitely have a role, especially in a community like this, at farmers’ markets and other places. If they can find a good market for their products, they can be really successful.”
One of the challenges facing farmers today, which is a heavy burden on the little man, is the acquisition of land. Developers are buying up land left and right to build homes and commercial space, which limits land availability and increases the opportunity costs associated with it.
“If you can sell your land for development and retirement, that’s a good incentive, but it takes farmland out of production,” Parker said. “I think the issue is getting the land, getting the necessary capital and getting started.”
Parker noted that farming is usually maintained within a family structure as 96 percent of NC farms (44,509) fall into this category.
“The vast majority of our farms are family farms,” Parker said. They usually think of handing it over to family members. What if there are no family members? Who do they find in the community they can trust to step in and keep these farms going? It’s a real challenge.”
The average age of a farmer in North Carolina is 58. This is not a new phenomenon. As Parker pointed out, this number has been high for a long time, but it still begs the question.
“It’s a real challenge for us to see where the new generation of farmers is coming from,” Parker said. “We have them. They are there. The real difficulty is they get land and equipment, and it takes capital to get started.”
During his speech Thursday, Parker discussed how rethinking and retooling farms can make them profitable. One example he gave was through the nascent agritourism industry. The USDA website describes agritourism as a commercial enterprise that connects agricultural production or processing with tourism to attract visitors to a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business to entertain or educate visitors while generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner.
In a state where more than a quarter of the land is used for agriculture, Parker noted that protecting the rights and interests of these farmers is critical for the future. After all, it is the only industry that feeds the earth.
Other PIP speakers include North Carolina’s top elected officials and business leaders. The remaining dates of the PIP season are April 20th and May 18th.
PIP season will take a break for the summer and resume in September.
The breakfast in the room programs average over 120 people each month. Sponsors will have exclusive marketing rights in the banquet room and submit a five-minute sponsor profile about their company.
Partner agencies will share updates with local business leaders and address issues of concern to the entire region.
For more information on the event, visit rowanchamber.com.