Sizes of Family Farms

a small Knox County family farm Farming operations in Knox County vary in size ranging from less than one hundred acres to more than four thousand. The Hathaways, who own one of the largest farms in Knox County, believe that increasing the size of their operation and keeping up with the latest technology allows them to "continue in this business."

Others, like Kathy Grassbaugh, a dairy farmer from Howard Township, feel that part of the expansion of their operation has been a result from outside pressure. "I don't like the idea of getting bigger and bigger. I guess I like the point we used to be at. I don't even like it that we have gotten this big [nearly one thousand acres and one hundred head of Holstein cows]. It is almost like the fun of doing some of the things has been taken out because you are under so much pressure."

As the size of operations increases, many farmers feel their farms are becoming more business-like. Kathy's husband, Dale Grassbaugh, feels this is true. "You've got to look at farming from a business aspect now. Definitely there is still a trend, a way of life, part of farming but you have got to make decisions and they have to be business decisions."

Some smaller farmers, although occasionally feeling the pressure to expand, are in no hurry to become larger. Becky Shinaberry, who lives on a four-hundred and fifty acre sheep and beef farm with her husband, Dennis, their three sons and Dennis' parents, is happy with the current size of their family farm. According to Becky, the size of an operation has the potential of effecting the character of the farm. Once a family farm has increased in size, Becky feels that it is more likely for the farm to slip out of the hands of the family and into the hands of hired help. She stresses that by keeping the operation at a medium size they are able to keep it in the family which she feels is important. "When you pull in someone who maybe wasn't born and raised on a farm and is only following instructions and doesn't have the foresight to see 'Well, if I do this it could have an affect on something else later on for the crop' ... it kind of deters away from the family farm ... To keep it all in the family for us is just right."

Listen ...

It is for these reasons that the family farms of Knox County differ so dramatically in size. For some, the need to grow larger and larger is important, something they feel will allow them to continue farming in the future. For others, the need to stay small is just as important. They believe that staying small will preserve the character of the family farm.

photo credit: Gregory Spaid

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