The amount of land in production agriculture declines every year. In the 2007 Ag Census, USDA estimated there were 922 million acres of land in farms, a decline of more than 16 million acres in just five years. The loss has been consistent; 25 years ago, there were nearly 987 million acres in farms in the U.S. Much of that land is developed, as a steadily growing American population needs more room and the cities and their suburbs slowly radiate out into the country. There’s been something of a slowdown over the last couple of years, as the recession has put a damper on new home construction.
Raising grass-fed beef, says Will Harris, is not a get-rich-quick proposition. But he quickly adds, "No surprise there-the cattle business is not a get-rich-quick proposition."Harris has seen the cattle business both from the conventional side and from the birth-to-table, pasture-raised end. His farm, White Oak Pastures, has been in the family for 143 years; he says that helped him when he made the decision in the mid-90s to transition into grass finishing. "I have the advantage of raising cattle on the same farm that I was raised on," he says, "and that my father and his father were raised on, so the old ways had not left us completely...we did some things, and knew some things, that relied heavily on that historical data."