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Farms As Small Businesses

June 17, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis week is designated National Small Business week and few small businesses are more entrenched in community than those in agriculture. Farms feed those small communities, and may provide jobs. For some their first “real job” was cleaning stalls or pens or feeding calves on one of those farms. For others, summer hay season meant money that was used to buy their first truck or car.

Many don’t think of farms as small businesses but they are. They must make a profit to continue. There are many ideas of how to do that, from specialized to diversified. The cost of equipment for some make it difficult to do anything else. For example, a dairy barn can with some modification be used to house feeder steers, but the milking parlor is pretty specialized.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe costs of land, supplies, livestock and equipment are all part of the business. The long hours required mean most live where they work, increasing the interest in taking care of the environment that surrounds them.

It means after all the expenses you take what the market pays, or you find a way to sell directly, sometimes at a higher income. Make no mistake, farms need a profit. We all need to remain viable.

Often it’s the middle businesses that make the money. Recently I looked at 5 pound bags of hay on Amazon – depending on the type of hay it ran from $12-28. Figuring  up that it’s, for $25, about $9800/ton. That’s for hay that from the farm was likely $200/ton, sometimes less! Some business bought that hay for $200/ton, bagged it, marketed it and reaped the price difference, with labor along the way for marketing, distributing and handling it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen your food leaves the farm, unless you buy direct it often doesn’t come ready to serve. Some business takes that beef steer, slaughters and cuts it up into pieces, wraps and makes it ready for your freezer. Someone hauls off the “waste” – someone hauls it to the grocery store and, for many small grocers, someone must stock it and make it available to buy.

Agriculture is diverse and from gate to plate, small businesses (and large, depending on your food choices!) seek to be a part of the community as well as a supplier.

Like other small businesses, they’re in the community, leading church and youth groups. They’re providing tractors to pull floats in the community parade.

Small businesses in the community benefit when farms purchase and support their efforts. The network runs both ways to connect small businesses of all types.

Celebrate all small businesses this week – and every week. Only with buying from them or hiring them can they stay in business.

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