Operating a family farm has never been easy. In 1900 42% of Americans lived on family farms, today it’s 2%. The culture is all but disappearing from much of the national landscape.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller calls the family farms that dot the Texas countryside Farming 3.0. The first generation was essentially subsistence level, he explains, giving way to Farming 2.0, brought into existence with the onset of the Industrial Revolution as mechanization took over, and leading to today’s tech savvy requirements of a computerized information age in a global economy. It’s not easy and not for the faint of heart.
“Most of the family farmers can’t make it just off the farm income. Usually one of the spouses will have to supplement the family income,” says Miller, addressing the hardships inherent with the profession. And it’s not rising costs and lower prices than Mother Nature can get you. “We just had over 200 million worth of cotton destroyed during Hurricane Harvey. We lost some rice and corn production also, and we lost a lot of livestock. So it’s always something, they’re always fighting.”
There is one area of farming in Texas where Miller sees growth: the country gentleman, or woman, probably retired, often a profession such as medicine or law or engineering, giving up the city life to grow fine grapes that become part of the Lone Star state’s wine culture. “Contrary to what most people think we’re actually gaining in the number of farms, slightly. But we’re actually lose about one farm a week in Texas, and that’s mainly attributed to urban sprawl.”