Give Now  »

The agrarian dream may be calling–but is it practical?

Beth Hoffman and John Hogeland standing close together in a field with a sunset sky, pasture and small trees behind them.

Beth Hoffman spent much of her career as a journalist writing about food and farming. When she moved with her husband (John Hogeland, pictured here) to his family's farm in Iowa, she had the chance to put into practice some of what she had been studying. (Courtesy of Beth Hoffman)

“It’s a great thing to be outside, to have birds chirping, to be around green grass and animals. But the problem has become that you can’t really be a business unless you are a financially viable business.” 

This week on the show, we explore the economics of small scale farming, and debunk some of the myths of the agrarian lifestyle. We talk with Beth Hoffman, author of Bet the Farm: The Dollars and Sense of Farming in America, and we hear from farmers across Indiana about how they’re making ends meet. 

Hoosier Young Farmer Podcast

We share an episode of the Hoosier Young Farmer Podcast called Making it Pay. We hear from growers across the state about working on and off the farm to make ends meet as small-scale farmers.  The podcast is produced by Alex Chambers, hosted by Liz Brownlee and supported by Indiana Humanities. Andrew Raridon and Jessica Murnane coordinated interviews, Andrew Raridon and Rachel Brandenburg conducted the interviews. You can find out more about the podcast and listen to all of the episodes on the Hoosier Young Farmers Coalition website. 

Bet the Farm

We talk a lot about farming here on Earth Eats, and we talk about the future of farming. With the current population of farmers aging, the question of who will replace them looms large. There are also questions about the sustainability of existing food and farming systems.

Is the current state of agriculture in this country what we want for the future? In other words, who is going to be growing our food, and how are they going to go about it in ways that are kind to the planet, and to the farmers and producers. 

Farming does manage to attract people, but often it is the myth of farm life that is appealing, and beginning growers are quickly disillusioned by the grueling demands of the work, the broken food system and the extremely tight profit margins. Most small farms rely on off-farm-income to make ends meet. 

My guest today has written a book examining these issues in vivid and often candid detail. Beth Hoffman had been writing about food and farming as a journalist. When she and her husband John started farming themselves, her ideas about sustainable growing practices were put to the test.

We talk about who has the privilege to farm, and who has historically been denied access to land or had their land stolen. Beth Hoffman encourages an honest examination of these complicated issues so that we may approach possible solutions grounded in reality. 

Music on this episode

The Hoosier Young Farmer Podcast theme music is from Amy O, with additional music from Ramón Monràs-Sender.

The Earth Eats theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Additional music on this episode from the artists at Universal Production Music.

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Harvest Public Media