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Farmers Adjust To Changing Industry

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The farming industry has seen a slight decline over the years and some farmers are dropping out of the industry completely while others are adjusting.

From 2012 to 2017, the number of farms in Chenango County have dropped from 828 to 770, according to the USDA County Summary Highlights. This has a loss of 11% of farmland as well. Farmer Josh Lathrop has seen it happen with the dairy industry. 

“When the prices are down, people have chosen to get out of the industry," said Lathrop.

Chenango County Farm Bureau President Bradd Vickers says low dairy productions have been going on for about 5 years, as the industry cycles. Smaller farmers tend to be the ones who leave, and the land gets subdivided and sold. Co-Ops pick up large farms instead of the small ones. 

"It's hard to evaluate because the numbers of cows may be picked up by larger farms, but the loss of farmland is critical," said Vickers.

Farmers find different ways the increase their revenue. Lathrop sells beef and others may make cheese, bottle milk, or farm other products like maple syrup. 

“I think it’s a great idea for a lot of small farms to try to find alternatives to survive," said Lathrop.

Buying local products or food produced in the country helps to support these farms. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, 98% are family farms.