Farm viability is different for everyone, but I think we can all agree on one thing: if you can’t make a living, nothing else matters.
In order to attract new entrants to farming and keep junior farmers on the family farm, we need to tell our stories, our stories of success and joy on the farm, and our stories of loss.
Thus, for the purposes of this work, I have chosen John Ikerd’s definition of the viable farm:
“The new farm economics of today is about making enough profit to meet the material requisites for a desirable quality of life while building healthy relationships within farm families and with employees, customers, neighbors, and society. The new farm economics is about taking care of the land, caring for farm animals, and being good stewards of nature while meeting the agricultural needs of human society. The new farm economics treats farming as a business, but more importantly, as a way of life.”
In addition to being viable, anyone who works as close to the land, the earth, her creatures, and nature, as does a farmer, lives and breathes the Golden Rule – that our decisions are based on meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland Commission, United Nations. 1987). Once again, John Ikerd translates this in a clear way to sustainable farming.
“The three cornerstones of sustainable agriculture – ecological soundness, economic viability, and social responsibility- rest upon a foundation of intergenerational equity. Sustainability applies the Golden Rule across generations.”