Our Farms Feed Us and Will Continue to Do So February 15, 2013
By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau
We need all size farms. Small. Medium. Large. And,we need all types. We need conventional and organic, direct-market (retail) and wholesale.
And when it comes to feeding more than 300 million of us 365 days a year three times a day, we need large farms, or what some like to call factory farms (but remember 98% of American farms are family owned).
But first, let’s just focus on why large farms are important to a state’s economy.
Let’s assess agriculture in Arizona by the numbers: Statewide, nearly 7 percent of the largest farms account for nearly 98 percent of all agricultural sales in the state even though the average size farm in Arizona averages only 10 acres, according to the latest (2007) U.S. Census of Agriculture conducted by the United States Departemnt of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Sercies (NASS). The next U.S. Census of Agriculture is coming out next year.
On the other hand, we have found new emerging trends in direct marketing agriculture activities and organic agriculture statewide in Arizona. Between 2002 and 2007, sales of agricultural commodities sold directly to consumers increased by 34 percent to $5.3 million. Sales of organic production exploded from a meager $3.4 million in 2002 to $48.4 million in 2007 and the number of growers of organic production nearly doubled. This will continue.
However, when you look at total sales of all agricultural commodities which totaled more than $3.2 billion, these two segments of agriculture, although growing rapidly, are still dramatically small compared to the size of traditional or conventional agriculture.
Even if every family in Arizona started their won backyard garden and produced enough for nearby neighbors, such productive farming endeavors could not replace the amount of large agriculture needed to keep us all fed.
However, I highly encourage us to go out back and start a garden. It’s a good way to discover your green thumb and understand the work required to produce your own food.