Why is the “Family” Important in “Family Farm”-Comments Needed

Our blog has been a lot about our farm and me doing all the talking. This year, I want to engage our readers more and receive feedback on a whole host of questions.

The first question I would like to pose is: Do you think it is important that farms are family owned and operated?

If you are a non-farmer: Does knowing if a product is from a family farm influence your purchasing decisions?

If you are farmer: Is your operation owned and operated by your family? Is that important to you?

I hope that you can provide a good dialog. I will share my thoughts on the subject next week.


Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

0 thoughts on “Why is the “Family” Important in “Family Farm”-Comments Needed

  1. Leah

    Emily-We do own all the ground we farm. I think we are unique though. Many times land is an investment for people who don’t want to farm. But the majority of people who cash rent land are operating a farm operation that is family owned.

    The same is true in the livestock. Is a contract grower who is raising animals for Smithfield or Tyson less of a farmer because he doesn’t own the animals? Does he care for the animals less? Does Smithfield or Tyson bearing the capital risk of animal ownership make them less valuable to the production of food? I guess I haven’t really thought long and hard about how you define family either!

    Interesting thoughts! Can’t wait to see everyone’s thoughts.

  2. Susan

    I think family farms are vitally important to this country. I like knowing where my food comes from. I think family farms tend to treat their livestock much better, and I think the food produced not only tastes better but is fresher, since it is local. I prefer locally grown food and locally-raised meat, preferably organic. I like knowing where my food comes from.

    I would consider a family farm to be any group of individuals living together with the goal of sustainable farming. That would include, in my area, a group of people who rent land and produce delicious organic produce (and, this year, free range chicken).

    I have a few acres – I am not a farmer, although at this point I give eggs away from my very productive chickens. I have two Highland heifers and four sheep, all of which I plan to breed. My goal here leans towards a greater self-sufficiency rather than production farming.

  3. Peter

    As a young member of our family farm, I would say that it is important to us. We have been working together for years, and understand each other when tasks are needed to be done. Each of us have, areas that we are better at, or usually end up doing.

    We also do the vast majority of the work ourselves (from tillage to harvest), but hire out the liquid manure application. That alone helps when it is a family farm for the reason mentioned above, we know what each of us is doing at a given time.

    We have to remember that 98% of the farms out in the country is family farms.

  4. Lisa

    I guess I fit into your second category – I’m a farmer! Our farm is family-owned and family works on it, but we also have employees who are non-family. I would say that the family tradition is very important, as I think it is to most farms of every size.

    I now farm with my husband and his family and I grew up on a family farm as well, so the multi-generational family tradition is important to both of us.

  5. Glen Groth

    Yes, our farm is family owned. Yes it is important to me. But not as important as remaining economically viable in order to provide an opportunity a future generation or an unrelated successor. If that means engaging in a business arrangement that deviates from the traditional family farm model, so be it.

    For what its worth, the title “family farm” does not automatically mean high quality food, humane animal care, or enviromental awareness. I know plenty of small, multi-generational, family owned farms that provide a living for their owners while being an embarassment to all of us who produce food in a concientious manner.

  6. Kimberly

    I am just a consumer. I have very strong feelings about big business and the affects it is having on our country. I, myself am a small business owner.
    My family has been vegetarian for the past 15 years, and always bought organically grown product whenever available. For the past two years we have started introducing some chicken and turkey back into our diet. It is important for me personally to only support companies that use good humane organic farming practices. Currently the health food store I shop at carries Shelton Farms brand.
    It helps me feel better reading these comments from you, knowing that there are so many farmers who care. I have family in Montana who are in the farming/cattle business, and pump up their cows with “stuff” to make more money when selling, but separate out a couple “untreated” for their personal consumption. How terrible!! I understand being profitable – but at what price?

  7. iafarmwife

    We are farmers. My husband and I farm with my brother-in-law and his wife, and my father-in-law. It is a big source of pride for us to say that we do almost all of the work on the farm ourselves. But, like previous commenters have said, I know of some family-run operations that are an embarrassment, and others that have hired help that are shining examples. The title “family farm” shouldn’t give produce an advantage, because it doesn’t necessarily mean that the people who produced it cared more

    This isn’t meant to throw agriculture under the bus. Living smack in the middle of Iowa, I say with confidence that the vast majority of us farmers care about the consumer and the product they are raising for the consumer. Most all of us “get it,” and realize that being irresponsible with the resources we manage will put us out of business.

    @Kimberly– That is a shame about your family in Montana. If they do not understand the products they are giving their livestock, they should not be using them. My family uses hormone implants and feeds antibiotics to our livestock, I fully understand how much they get and how it works. I do not worry one bit about feeding the beef we raise to our family or to the consumer. That being said, I respect your choices in vegetarian and organic produce, and I don’t mean to come across otherwise. I just want to shed a little light on my family’s choices.

  8. Michael

    It has long been a source of pride that all of our farm labor was done by family. My farther helped me grow into the business as his father had before him, and we have been able to raise our families with the wealth of the land. We have always tried to do the best job possible.
    My dad was born in the dirty thirties when soil blew out of fields. I still remember the dirty snow that used to blow about all winter. We have done much in the years of my life to reduce wind and water erosion and make our farms better today than they were when we bought them.
    The land we own will also help us as we consider retirement. That is part of being a farmer. You make an investment while you are younger so that you will have something to live off of when you retire.
    Unfortunately I am not looking at a family member replacing me. The farm will have to be farmed by someone else. The good thing is that I see several energetic young people who are ready to take up where I left off and continue the job I started.

  9. Dave Berning

    As with all family business.. the family is the the caring part of process and quality of the product being produce and service level provided.. Family adds a hole new meaning to caring because the whole family is involved and the teaching and knowledge is past on to the next generation..