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SPOTLIGHT
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A special breed

Published on -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

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People outside of agriculture routinely try to define the family farm. These same folks have a tendency to question corporate farming whether family owned or not.

Let's take a look at the family farm. In Kansas, farm and ranch families grow up with the feel of the prairie earth beneath their feet, the wide-open sky overhead and the rhythm of the seasons in their blood.

Throughout their lifetime, these farmers and ranchers love, care for and respect the land entrusted to them. Ag producers adhere to an ethic that enlarges the boundaries of our community to include soils, waters, plants and animals -- collectively -- the land.

This entity known as the family farm is based on owner operation. The rights and responsibilities of ownership are vested in an entrepreneur who works the farm for a living.

Another key ingredient of the family farm system is independence. Independence means financing from within its own resources using family labor, management and intellect to build equity and cash flow that will retire the mortgage, preferably in the lifetime of the owner.

Economic dispersion is another integral part of the family farm. Economic dispersion includes large numbers of efficient-sized farms operating with equal access to competitive markets worldwide.

No family farm would be complete without the family core. All family members share responsibilities, and the children learn the vocation of their parents.

At an early age, young men and women learn to work with their dads and moms on the family farm. Here, they develop self-reliance and initiative. They often rise with the sun and finish work when it sets. Yet, they rarely take this place called home for granted.

The ideal family farm is commercially diversified. Diversified commodities help reduce price risks and maximize the use of farm resources to produce crops and livestock that in turn provide greater self-sufficiency.

One final attribute necessary in defining today's family farm is the use of innovative technology. It not only enhances farm labor but also helps boost production.

Family farming carries with it a commitment to specific, independent values. These values become part of the community and include conservation, frugality, responsibility, honesty, dignity in work, neighborliness, self-reliance, and concern and care for future generations.

While it's rare indeed one particular family farm might possess all of these attributes, together they have created a system of agriculture that has been a part of our rural culture since this nation's beginning.

Today, detractors of this profession are making it increasingly difficult for this vital industry to progress and prosper. Maybe they should learn more about the ag industry, visit a farm or connect with a farmer or rancher. That way farmers and ranchers can continue doing what they do best -- responsibly producing the healthiest, safest food in the world.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwest Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.

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