What...Ag is a business?
By Ashley Fritz
Outside of the agriculture world, most just see tractors, cowboys in jeans, and smelly pigs. However, those who know this part of the world will tell you differently.
You could say that classifying the farming community with tractors, cowboys and smelly pigs is a stereotype. Sure, all those things are associated with and are used in the farming community, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The word farmer by definition is a person who owns or manages a farm. When one owns a farm, from small scale to large, it take more than just feeding and planting to keep it up and running. There is a lot of time, energy and of course money, put into farms every year to have positive yields and high carcass value on animals.
Farmers are always working to making the biggest profit, just like big-name companies. However, the biggest difference between the farming business and the corporate world is the passion that is put into farming.
All businesses want to meet that bottom line of profit, and this is also true in the farming business. However, in the farming community it is not just about the money, it is about doing something you love that has been passed down from generation to generation.
Farming can be a big business or small scale family business. When talking of big business in the farming world, crops can bring in major cash flow, especially in the Midwest. In 2010, Ohio was ranked 8th for corn, 6th in soybeans, and 11th for wheat nationally. The United States as a whole in 2011 ranked 3rd, with China leading the world in agricultural output.
Yes, crops are the main products from farms in general, however they are not the only thing that is produced.
Crops are products that are very important not only to the farmers, but to consumers as well. For farmers it is a pay check, for consumers it means foods such as flour, oil, textiles, sorghum, and substances for medical uses.
For a farmer, the number one goal is to feed America. Crops can give us many things, however animals are just as beneficial as crops, with food being the main use.
The first things that come to mind when you think of animal byproducts are milk, bacon and steak.
In 2010 Ohio was ranked nationally 25th in cattle, 10th in milk cows, 9th in hogs, and 13th in sheep. Animals not only provide us with food, they also can provided medical and surgical needs. Pigs currently are being used to provide humans with heart valves, aid in skin grafts, and someday soon researchers are planning for the use of pig lungs in humans.
Aside from those uses, animals, just as crops, can provide textiles, like hair being used in belts, the underside of pig skin to make pig suede fabric, and the wool of sheep used in the production of cloth, thread, yard, carpeting, felt, and upholstery.
With all the human needs for animals, their byproducts, food and other consumer needs, it is no wonder why farming has evolved into a business.
From the beginning of time from the Chan Dynasty down though the ancient Egyptians, there has been a need for these same items as we now use, except now we have evolved a bit more with the thanks of the technological advances of this world and of course, time. However the same basic practices are still being used today.
Farmers really are the jack of all trades if you think about it. Farmers can be seen as a stock market analyst, experimenter, electrical technician, farm equipment mechanic, animal breeder, meteorologist, and a contractor.
The stock market watching is not just for Wall Street these days. Stock market prices are being watched everyday by farmers all around, with the same motto: buy it low, sell it high. Items such as corn, soybeans, cotton and rice are just a few items that can be found under the Commodity Exchange.
The Commodity Exchange is traded worldwide based on agriculture products and raw materials. Raw materials include items such as sugar, rice and more. This market differs from others because it can also be contract based, meaning that a seller can sell future products, such as just-planted corn — on delivery the price would be guaranteed from the time the contract was drawn.
You might be scratching your head on this one, but it is a common thing. Think about it…take a ride into the country and you are likely to see several different types of signs promoting the seed company that farmer is using, whether it is a traditional seed or hybrid, the cultivator of that particular land is trying possibly the newest seed formula or trying an old method.
Why is this done?
When it comes to planting, the most important thing is knowing your land. The best yields come from knowing what type of soil you have. This is the one most important thing and a great tool to the farmer.
Soil type will determine what types of seed to use, the depth the seed needs to be in the soil, and the type/amount of fertilizer used. Soil also directly controls the health and quality of the type of crop that is being planted in a field. The better the soil, the better the chance the yield will be good.
There are so many different types of soils and different techniques out there, knowing what works can be an experiment. A seed company can and will recommend what is best for a particular scenario, however it does not always work the way it is expected. Therefore, farmers may “experiment” with different types of scenarios to find what is best for them.
As with cars, maintenance must be done on farm equipment. During the winter, or the off-season, farmers are tinkering with their toys. Manual labor items such as engine work, sprayer hoses, and general tune ups are currently being done to prepare for the upcoming planting season that is sneaking up very quickly.
Many will seek outside help from their dealership consultants to help aid them in getting a leg-up on next year’s yield, such as GPS trackers, yield output devices, computers, grid systems — the list can go on.
Nowadays, the demand for technology will continue in the agriculture community. Not only are planters, tractors, and harvesters becoming more computer-based, but the animal production side is catching up at a high speed. As we look to the future, you and I will continue to see more developments in high profitable animals such as hogs and cattle.
More and more people outside the agriculture community are gaining interest in what exactly goes on in our world. The success of any business depends on promotion, marketing, support, and awareness. The more of these items we see in the farming communities, the better off they will be.
Farming truly is a way of life, a passion. The more passion that is put into something, the more it gives the person a sense of enjoyment and self-gratification. The farming business is not just about money….yes that is important — but the bottom line of why farmers do what they do is that they love it, and would not trade their life for another one.