008 – Big Ag, Hobby Farms and Birthrights

008 – Big Ag, Hobby Farms and Birthrights

“The Farmer & The City Girl Podcast Episode 008 – Big Ag, Hobby Farms and Birthrights”

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In this episode, Carrie is trying to understand and Rob is trying to explain, the farmer mentality when it comes to hobby farms, intermediate size farms, big ag and corporate farms.

They talk about everything from the size of your tractor, the types of farm entities, BTO (Big Time Operator), how and why “big ag” can be extremely intimidating to the intermediate/small farmer, and Rob’s obsession with Old McDonald.

And then they drill deep into the farmer’s unique entitlement/failure mentality when it comes to what defines them and the lengths they will go to in order to keep farming.


  • Farmers: Have you ever had to take a non-farming job in order to keep food on your table? Did you feel like a failure because of it? Or did you feel like you had to do what you had to do to make it through the rough times?
  • Do you consider yourself “big ag”, “medium size” or “hobby farm”?

Comment below – let us know!

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  1. Big fan of this one, liked the perspective. As someone who was raised by a hobby farmer per Rob’s definition (farming around 500 acres while working in town), and now working with farmers of all shapes and sizes in my ag sales role, I think there’s a lot of ways that they’re all the same whether they’d admit it. Big guys worry about failing as much as little guys and every size worries about the BTO – you hear it every time a big grain farmer buys some land in our area or a large dairy goes up. Carrie calling farmers too proud to a stupid point isn’t something I thought about but I can see the validity for sure. Keep em coming guys!

  2. I you used to have a full time job in the tool trade,while trying to farm 1000 acres myself to make the ends meet. I never considered myself a hobby farm tho. It felt like I had 2 full time jobs,Only one of them didn’t pay hardly at all lol. So many ppl would ask why do you do that. And it’s hard to explain. Farming is every bit as much a way of life as it is a vocation ,and when ur passionate about it ,it’s hard to let it go,and you’ll struggle and struggle trying to make it. Fourtunately for me I have been able to transition into farming full time now ,mostly thanks to the fact my wife has a good job that has all the health benefits that come with it.
    Good conversation tho,
    I have some of the same fears that Sharkey was talking about from the BTO’s cuz those guys do such a good job on such a big scale with all the latest equipment and I struggle with what I can bring to the table that would be better or different ,to compete with

  3. The off-farm income is a touchy subject for many. My definition is any income not derived from directly grown crops, this includes a job at Caterpiller, custom work, trucking in the off season, mechanic work.

  4. In reality the definition doesn’t matter as much as the fact that people are doing what they can to ensure that they can farm. Regardless of their motives, they are still farming and using definitions just further confuses and vilifies segments of agriculture.

  5. I don’t farm and didn’t think I would enjoy this episode but I did. It brought home to me some of the ideas I’ve had are wrong about farms in general. A lot of times I put all farms in to a factory farm category.

    I do agree with Carrie that it is insulting to me that my job isn’t good enough for a farmer to do. That he would rather go bankrupt than get a non farming job. But I don’t think that’s actually the case. Even Rob mentioned in passing that he got a day job to buy groceries. But in the whole episode it sounded like he was embarrassed to admit it. I don’t feel like he was being very honest because he was afraid to admit it.
    So farmers who present themselves with the image that they would never get a job like that is not a true depiction. It sounds like the reality is that they do, they just don’t want to admit it. Which makes the average person not want to trust them.
    To me there is more honor in saying “I did what I had to and we survived” than pretending like you’ll let the farm go under. But pride is in everyone. Not just farmers.

  6. Interesting.
    the point about failing was not made. While she did not identify as a solider, she may have felt a similar generational failure if she could not have joined the Navy
    Me taking a side job or full time job would not save my operation. It would not do anything besides divert attention
    i think hobby operations and little operations have an impact. there are tons of regulation that don’t matter if you are under certain thresholds. many laws are written with smaller operations in mind, and no concept of how it will challenge larger ones.

  7. I really enjoyed this podcast. These are the things I lie awake at night thinking about!

    My husband and I go back and forth between calling ourselves hobby farmers and small farmers. I like being referred to as a small farmer, better, for the shear fact that we farm because we feel it’s our calling and we will do what it takes to continue farming. If it were hobby, you could just pick up and stop at anytime. Which, technically we could, but there would be a true void in our lives. The thought of not farming makes us both physically ill. We do it to carry on a legacy.

    We are young farmers and both work full-time off the farm and work evenings and weekends on our small farm. Most days, to me, it feels like my husband has two full-time jobs versus one full and a “hobby”. I help in the fields during the busy seasons and with occasional maintenance. I also enjoy serving the industry, I.E. Indiana Corn, Farm Bureau, blogging, advocating, etc. So, to us, it just feels like so much more than a hobby even if our farm doesn’t generate a full-time income.

    Do we have goals of becoming that medium size farmer someday? Well, heck yes! Someday.

    As for the BTOs… you can learn a lot from them. We’ve built relationships with our BTO neighbors and turn to them for support. Are they intimidating? Absolutely. Especially when you farm with equipment as old as you are. I use to worry about them driving up the price of land but now I am more worried about the Mennonite community migrating our way and putting up their small operations. That seems to be our competition on land values.

    I’m not going to lie though, when we were walking through the show at Commodity Classic, I started tearing up a little seeing some of the technology and equipment that we too small to afford. I couldn’t help but wonder if we would ever get there in our lifetime. The green-eyed monster can be our worse enemy if we let it. I think it goes back to focusing on the fact that hey, we are farming. Whether it’s 1 acre or 100,000 acres…. we get to farm. It’s better than not farming at all.

    At the end of the day, we all have a shot of a slice of the pie but we’re still eating from the same pie and have the same goal: to do what we love and to make money doing it.

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