Logan Elrod

(Chester, S.C.) — Farming is an important resource in America and family farms account for 96% of all U.S. farms, according data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farms have been slowly decreasing since the 1970s. In 2021, there were 2 million U.S. farms, but that number is down from roughly 2.2 million farms in 2007.

Yet, Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, was optimistic about the future of farming in his address back in March on National Agriculture Day.

“We believe in the brightest and best days despite the great things that occurred or are yet to occur,” Vilsack said.

In Chester, the Haley family is banking on the future of farming, where they raise Hereford cattle, the second-largest source of beef in the U.S.

John Haley, the owner of Haley Quality Farms, said his family has been in the cattle business for more than 100 years, originating in Texas, but he moved to South Carolina and started the livestock farm in 2020.

He said getting started is one of the most complex parts of farming.

“Prices are very high and so to get into farming, it’s just tough. You have that initial input to buy the land or loan,” Haley said. “Then to turn over a crop quickly and begin making money with it, especially with feed prices, fuel prices, everything is very high right now.”

Haley said the number of larger family farms might decrease, but that the land has to go somewhere.

“Land is either going to boutique farms or the mega-farms, the idea that boutique farming is increasing ethics is probably good overall for the industry. You get some new methods, you get new products, a lot more organic products,” Haley said.

John Haley also said boutique farms can bring younger people into the framing, such as his son Joel Haley, a biology major at Winthrop University.

Joel Haley said he spends much of his free time working as a farm hand at his family’s farm.

“The farm means a lot to me. It’s a great escape from school and life,” Joel Haley said. “It’s a good place to come and work with my hands and enjoy the nature around me and God’s creations.”

Haley Quality Farms hopes to expand its business to include pecans and honey products in the coming years.