Advice and Resources for Getting Out of Factory Farming - Modern Farmer

Advice and Resources for Getting Out of Factory Farming

We asked those interviewed for our stories on factory farming what advice they have for contract farmers looking for or needing other options. We’ve compiled some of their insights below.

Craig and Leah holding mushrooms.
Craig Watts and Leah Garcés.
Photography by Transfarmation / Mercy For Animals

In part one and part two of our series on transitioning out of factory farming, we heard from both farmers who have made or are making the transition, as well as the organizations that support producers through this process. In addition to sharing their stories and insights, the people we interviewed had a lot of helpful advice—both for farmers hoping to change the way they farm and for non-farmers who are interested in where their food comes from. Here is some of that advice, edited for length and clarity.

For farmers: You’re not alone.

Connect with other farmers:

Craig Watts stands in front of mushrooms.

Craig Watts stands in front of the mushrooms he grows. (Photo credit: Transfarmation / Mercy For Animals)

Craig Watts of Socially Responsible Agriculture Project says: “First and foremost, reach out to me directly and let me hear what is happening and see if there is something as it is a case-by-case process.”
Connect with Craig, or learn more about SRAP, here.


 

Tyler Whitley.

Tyler Whitley. (Photo credit: Transfarmation / Mercy For Animals)

Tyler Whitley of The Transfarmation Project says: “Just know that there are possibilities, even if they’re tough, and spend your time looking into those. Reach out to some organizations. It doesn’t have to be just us—there are a lot of organizations that are out there; their purpose is to help farmers outside of a ‘Big Ag’ system. Quality of life is what a lot of the farmers bring up to us. And if you’re unhappy with your quality of life, the best thing that I can say is to look into making a change. I think that’s something that resonates with all readers, not just farmers. Change is possible, even if it’s tough. But you can definitely do it.”
Learn more about the possibilities available to you with The Transfarmation Project.

Explore information resources:

Tanner Faaborg sits in front of his home.

Tanner Faaborg. (Photo credit: Transfarmation / Mercy For Animals)

Tanner Faaborg of 1100 Farm says: “I think they should at least just have an open mind. Have an open mind and do a little bit of research to see what’s out there because people are farming differently. There are some really interesting things happening right now. And then just start to write it down. You don’t need to do everything all at once. You don’t need to make a decision overnight. But I think I would recommend them to just start making a plan. And then just continue to look for resources like Transfarmation or talk to the USDA…There are a lot of resources out there that will help you at least get started. It doesn’t have to be a massive project. You could start out with one small change.”
The Faaborgs went from hog farming to selling value-added mushroom products. See how they reimagined their farm. 


 

Angela De Freitas.

Angela De Freitas. (Photo from Animal Outlook)

Angela de Freitas of Animal Outlook says: “I think knowledge is power. And I know that with a couple of the farmers that we’ve worked with, the first thing they did, which is eventually what led them to us, is they simply went online and started reading, because it helped them to understand that it wasn’t them. They were able to see that there are plenty of other nightmare stories out there of things that have happened to farmers, particularly in these contract situations. Start calling organizations—call Tyler, call me, call whoever you find, because there are resources out there to help and there are organizations out there to help. And there is no need to have to try and figure it out yourself because, at this point, there are a couple of us out there who have done it and had successes.”
Contact Angela at Animal Outlook.


 

Two people on a tractor.

Paula and Dale Boles. (Photo credit: Transfarmation / Mercy For Animals)

Paula Boles of JB Farms and Grace Chapel Greenhouses says: “The first thing that I would advise them to do is just do research. There are so many places that you can reach out [to] and talk to other people. And just see what options are out there. Even writing down ideas or visions, missions, whatever you think that aren’t possible—write them down anyway. And, sometimes, it’s almost like, once you write it down, it almost becomes a real thing. And then you can start looking at other ways to get there.”
Read about how contract farming affects mental health, from Paula’s perspective.

Contact your representatives:

Kara Shannon.

Kara Shannon. (Photo from ASPCA)

Kara Shannon of the ASPCA says: “One of the first things that [farmers] should do is to talk to their representatives, both in their state legislature and in Congress, and just tell their story, because this is not the story that those lawmakers are hearing, especially in Congress. [They hear] from Big Ag that these contracts and these growers, they’re building strong rural economies and creating jobs and feeding the world, etc. And they are not often hearing from people who have these stories of getting into contract farming because they wanted to be their own bosses and keep the family farm and maintain this way of life and then find themselves in something so far from what they thought. So, I think sharing those stories [is] really important, because that is what is going to get those policymakers motivated to make changes to fund programs to help get those farmers out of it, to improve the accountability for these big producers that are getting the farmers in these incredibly unfair contracts.”
Support farm system reform here.

For interested consumers: You can help.

Ask questions:

The ASPCA has a guide for buyers called “Shop with Your Heart.” It helps consumers navigate grocery store aisles and determine whether the language or certifications on animal product packaging is legitimate or greenwashing. They also have a list of questions you can ask producers if you have the opportunity, such as at the farmers market. Often, smaller producers will qualify for legitimate certifications, but actually becoming certified is a financial obstacle, so it’s helpful to know what to ask them if you have the chance to speak to them directly. 

The ASPCA’s Kara Shannon shares a question she likes that implies transparency: “My go-to would be, ‘Hey, do you allow people to come out to the farm? Do you allow visits?’ And if the answer is yes, that’s kind of all you need to know.”

Become a farmer ally:

Additionally, Angela de Freitas of Animal Outlook says: “Something that’s really important to us organizationally is that farmers are our allies and that we don’t engage in shaming farmers or making them feel bad for what they have done or chose to do. And we recognize that farmers are part of the solution. That is, I think, a really important way to think about this—supporting the farmer to get out, celebrating the farmer getting out, offering the farmer options to get out, as opposed to trying to create change through shaming.”

We love to connect with our Modern Farmer community. If you have a farm and are considering transitioning to a more sustainable model, we would love to hear from you. Comment below or send us a note at lena@modfarmer.com.

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William (Brad) Bradley
8 days ago

I think this is a great movement but I notice none of the examples involve meat production. Surely it is possible to produce quality meats with an alternative system.

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