It is a well-known fact that agriculture has a rich history, which is honoured by the generations of today – many of whom are following in the footsteps of their ancestors. But what is the truth behind family-run farms? And what are the benefits of growing together, as an evergreen family tree?
By dictionary definition, a ‘family farm’, like any family-run business, was founded and subsequently owned by a family, with the baton typically being passed along multiple generations. It’s a heart-warming concept, isn’t it? But where did it all begin?
Well, the history of agriculture stems back thousands of years – 12,000, in fact! – where human civilization was born. Did you know that farming was actually the first thing to convince us primal hunter-gatherers to settle down and build permanent homes? It is therefore no wonder why family-run farms naturally evolved: home is where the heart is, after all! Farming was forged by multiple groups of people, specifically from the Middle East’s ‘Fertile Crescent’, which is today’s Iraq, Syria and Israel, to name but a few. These farms organically began through claiming land, domesticating animals, and gathering multifarious species of plants. This profitable concept rapidly caught on, soon taking over the world: fast-forward to 2022, and agriculture is the largest worldwide employer!
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service's Census of Agriculture, family farms account for 96 percent of the 2 million plus farms in the US. Therefore, family-run farms certainly must be doing something right! Beyond the innate psychology of farms equating to ‘homeliness’, there are also a whole host of benefits to collaborating generationally.
Firstly, family farms tend to be smaller, which leads to higher quality produce, while also benefiting both the economy and the environment in equal measure. How? Smaller farms are often more productive on a daily basis, compared to larger industrial companies – simply due to their level of output per unit of land. This significantly reduces energy and water use, while maintaining the level of food production necessary to feed our ever-growing population. Family-run farms are also more likely to uphold traditional processes, from breeding livestock to nurturing a variety of plant life – all of which are greatly positive for ecosystems. What’s more, there’s a lot to be said about the way in which family-founded businesses help maintain cultural values: the importance of family, trust and community. Such farms also ensure family members – and beyond – have a guaranteed job, in a world where unemployment and poverty have reached devastating heights. In short, family-run farms ensure that no one gets left behind.
In the 21st century, our definition of ‘family’ is perhaps different than what it was a hundred – even just fifty – years ago. This is demonstrated by gender roles across all industries; in any case, the pivotal role of women in agriculture exemplifies positive societal change. While there is still vital progress to be made, the future of family-led farms will indefinitely mirror a new, fairer society – where female farmers take centre stage.
The legacy of family farms is also important due to the ultimate baton handover: from older generations, to younger generations. Young people’s interest in agriculture is vital to the future of farming, and family-run businesses are the ideal way to engage and inspire young people to pursue a career in the industry, following in their ancestors’ footsteps. However, this future is not without challenges. In order to continue thriving, smaller, family-owned businesses must compete with industrial giants, while simultaneously facing the impact of social, economic and climate change.
At BKT, our motto: “Growing Together” stems from our roots as a local, family-run business, who are passionate about “acting glocal”. This means that, despite being a rapidly growing global business, we care deeply about our local communities – in part, due to our core family values as a company. We are a key example of a small family business which has evolved substantially across generations; however, we particularly acknowledge the value of smaller-scale agriculture – as this is how all family-owned ventures start out!
How will you play your part in supporting family-run farms? We recommend buying local, organic produce where you can; not only will it likely be fresher, better quality food, but you’ll also be manifesting those wholesome family values!