What is the “Right” Size?

What is the perfect size for a farm?

I wonder what you think, especially if you aren’t a farmer. Are specific characteristics important, or is it just a matter of stats like number of acres or animals?


There was a time when society definitely equated progress with expansion, and that usually meant growing a business (such as a farm) by adding on and increasing production. Now, the tide has shifted. People are more curious about where and how their food is produced, and along with that has come distrust by some of the growth of farms. Smaller equals better, right? Or does it?

For my part, I’m happy to see increasing interest in food. We should have knowledge about what we eat, and people should be able to choose what fits their budget, taste, and values. I do, however, take issue with calling any size of farm better, simply because I don’t know what it means.

On today’s farms, a huge variety of sizes can flourish and produce quality food. That’s true no matter how you measure size. Certain geographies lend themselves well to small field plots or a few cattle ranging over hundreds of acres. Other highly fertile soils may support enormous fields and be a needed bread basket for less productive areas.

Our modern world is also set up differently than ever before. Farms were smaller on average in the past because of practicality, and more people also raised their own food. Today not everyone can have their own cow, flock of chickens, or vegetable patch in the backyard. I suspect many wouldn’t even want to if they could! And so farmers must fill the void for growing urban and suburban populations. That means we need the farmer with thousands of fruit trees or thousands of chickens just as much as we need the community vegetable garden and the farmer with twenty beef cows.



I’ll go back to dairy, because that’s what I know best. I love dairy foods. I believe in their nutritional value, and I think raising domestic livestock is a good thing. I think many others would agree with that statement.

It’s my hope that more people can also come to agree that many farm sizes can be the “right size.” Big does not equal bad any more than small equals good or bad. This is why:

On any farm the strength comes from the people behind it, the beliefs held and carried out, and the way land and animals are cared for. Much the same as a school, a town, or a family can function well at various sizes, so can a farm. The reality might be different than the small red barn you picture, but the basics of feeding and caring well for animals remain constant.



About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
This entry was posted in Agriculture ( in general), Cows and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What is the “Right” Size?

  1. I agree with you but I do think that as a farm/organization/business grows, there are additional challenges to keeping the values and quality the same. Not that it can’t be done but it’s just harder. My main concern with the size of farms is that the animals are still able to get the attention, treatment and space that they need to live with health and dignity. If a big farm can provide that, great.

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kathy. Always I agree with you about raising healthy, well cared for animals in any setting.

      Your comment also reminds me about something else. As humans, sometimes we want to apply human characteristics and needs to animals. They are certainly living creatures with needs, but they are different too. The need for individual recognition and autonomy isn’t the same for livestock. They are happy to be part of the herd, and they want to be. I think this is one of the reasons I truly believe animals are quite content on many sizes of farms with the right care.

  2. Suzanne says:

    Great post Lisa! I think with each farm it’s different just like with each person it would be different. Some people and some farms can manage more livestock or acres with no issues whereas another farm of equivalent size might struggle merely based on the people involved in its day-to-day operation. I like to believe that most farmers don’t overextend themselves but I know that’s not always the case as people sometimes struggle to make ends meet.

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