By Kathy Henderson, Director of Economic Development, CCEDC
When you think of small businesses, you may think of many different types. The local bakery, a restaurant or that cute shop that sells handmade soaps and lotions or even a nail salon or accountant.
Here in Carbon County, we have lots of those businesses. Some of them cater to tourists, others mostly to locals, but have you ever stopped to think about the local farmers that we are blessed to have in the county. They are a small business too and probably the hardest small business to operate because a huge part of their success depends on something very unpredictable; Mother Nature.
Just like the commercial used to say, “You can’t fool Mother Nature”, almost every farmer I know will also say sometimes there’s no working with her either. She can be very hormonal, having severe hot flashes one day, and downpours and thunderstorms the next. Just when you think you’re ready to plant your crops or bale hay, here she comes again with her next tantrum.
Small farmers are some of the hardest working people I know. Some also work a regular paying job to make ends meet. When they return home from a long day they barely have time to grab something to eat before they’re up on the tractor and out in the fields until midnight just to get things done then up early the next morning to start all over again. Don’t even talk about a weekend off or a well-deserved vacation especially if they have animals to take care of.
I know only too well that this is a 24/7/365 job because my dad was one of those farmers and now my brother, sister-in-law and nephews have taken the reins of the farm that has been in our family for generations. It is not just in their blood, it is their passion and despite the challenges, the ability to put a small seed in the ground and cultivate it to produce food to feed people is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience.
Unfortunately, there aren’t as many family farms as there used to be. I can count on one hand the number of dairies we have left in the county that produce milk much less actually sell it directly from the farm. We love to visit Hahn’s Dairy in Palmerton every week for our milk, the best chocolate milk in town and Leiby’s ice cream.
Small family farms were once plentiful but are slowly disappearing. The U.S. Census reports that during the past 30 years the average age of U.S. farmers has grown by nearly eight years, from 50.5 years to 58.3 years. Some continue to work the farm even into their 80’s and 90’s without the assurance that the next generation will take over.
We must support our local farmers. Visit your local farm stand or farmer’s market every week for the freshest seasonal selections of produce and most importantly to help support the tradition of the family farm so they can continue for generations to come.