I agreed to serve on the BCEDC board of directors to represent the interests and opportunities for agriculture in Bayfield County, but I don't share the "bigger is better" attitude that seems to permeate conventional "economic development" thinking. Although an economy of scale and efficiency is important, farms don't have to be "BIG" to be economically viable. In fact I believe family farms, resident owner-operated farms, driven by agrarian values, with gate sales of $100,000 to $500,000, offer the greatest benefit to a strong rural economy. Family farms put people on the land, children in local schools, shoppers on Main Street, residents on the local tax rolls, and healthy food on the table. Family farms can compete in regional food systems--some Bayfield County farm families have been succeeding at this for generations. With abundant affordable fertile land, clean water, a conducive climate for appropriate crops, and a growing regional market for "locally" produced food, the future can be bright for a new generation of farmers in Bayfield County.
When then Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, preached "Get Big, or Get OUT!" in the 1970's, bankers and farmers bought in. Then in the 1980's the economy faltered, the farmland price bubble broke, interest rates soared, food prices fell, heavily leveraged farmers who had borrowed to expand couldn't pay their loans. 300,000 family farms were lost. More banks failed in 1985 than during any year of the 1930's. Main Street business of many a Midwestern town died; most never to recover. Industrial agriculture has nothing to offer Bayfield County except increased risks to be managed, and potential ruin when management fails. I won't be part of any "welcome party" for a CAFO pig factory in Bayfield County--Nope, not me!