Given that some of my blog readers may not have first hand farm backgrounds, and given that some of those that do may be reading this from another country where the situation is very different, I think I need to clarify the size and scope of what quantifies large scale, industrial agriculture in 2010 here in the US. As you'll quickly see, I'm not talking here about someone milking 200 cows.
Locally, we have one hog "farmer" and three chicken "farmers".
The hog "farmer" is a mini-integrartor. His contract growers will finish upward of 600,000 market hogs for him this year. Put another way, this farm is sending 12,000 hogs a WEEK to market ! This pales in comparison when compared to the real integators in the midwest and VA/NC. They might market 100,000 hogs a week.
To put this in perspective, a good sized independent Ontario hog farm in the area I grew up might market somewhere between 50 and 200 hogs a week.
I don't know how many chickens the chicken integrators have locally, beyond saying a hell of a lot. I do know that each complex has a feed mill and a good feed mill at a working complex will put out upward of 10,000 ton of feed a week, solely for their own birds. I think it'd be a reasonable extrapolation to say that our three local integrators are putting 30,000 ton of feed a week through their own birds. Put another way, 30,000 ton is 60 million pounds of feed. A week.
A good sized family dairy in this part of the world might milk somewhere between 200 and 400 cows. In Ontario, thanks to quota, the average dairy farm might be milking nearer to 50 cows. Here in TN, neither our topography nor climate are suited to industrial dairies, but in parts of the southern midwest not too far away from here, dairies in excess of 5000 milk cows are becoming routine, with the largest approaching 30,000 cows at this writing.
Agriculture practiced on this scale requires legions of employees, strict protocols, etc. It truly is industrial in it's mindset and outlook. When I talk about industrial agriculture and compare it to what Melissa and I do, this is the scale to which I am comparing it. There are lots of smaller farms that share the industrial mindset, but this is where it comes from. I'm not condemning it, but I'm not interested in farming this way, either.
Can you imagine the owner of any of the aforementioned entities passing his workday all day by himself in a pair of cutoff shorts building himself an office ? If you CAN picture an agribusiness CEO out hammering nails while attired in "business casual" in 90 degree heat, do you picture someone who is happy about what he's doing ? :)
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