Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Button Pusher

Yesterday I spent a few hours at Empire Farm Days.  Although there were some resources for a potential small farmer, most of the money in the displays was on mega-farming equipment.  The kind of stuff you need to farm more than a thousand acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, or hay, or milk a few hundred cows.  There's lots of economical structures, and tools, but the big thing in the biggest booths is automation.  Bigger tractors that do more at the touch of a button, conveyors, pumps, sensors, automatic clean-out pipes...  It occurs to me that in that place there were many men seeking to become chair-sitting button-pushers.  I'm doing financially quite well as a chair-sitting button-pusher, but the health effects of chair-sitting are not acceptable to me, so I'm seeking a more active career.  I'm sure if I had a long talk with those other farmers, they'd think I'm crazy...

The other conclusion I made at the trade show was that if a small farmer is going to compete with the big boys, the small farmer should not bother selling corn, or soybeans, and hay and dairy were questionable operations.  I think there is still a niche in beef if the small farmer does direct sales and offers grass fed or other custom finished cattle.  The big farmers all sell by the tractor trailer load and don't have time to work directly with customers.  But the small farmer really needs either a niche product or a large variety feeding a vegetable stand.