The top 4 percent of farms account for 69 percent of U.S. farm sales, while the bottom 76 percent of farms make up a mere 3 percent of sales.
Tom and Sokchea Lim Are Building Their Dream Vegetable and Mushroom Farm
Tom Lim raised chickens for 20 years before the company he contracted with terminated him without warning in 2018. Since then, he and his wife, Sokchea, have been working multiple jobs to try to pay off the debt they are left with from raising chickens.
Tom is a Khmer immigrant from Cambodia who grew up in a farming family. When he was a young boy, the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal regime led him to flee Cambodia. He lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for 10 years before coming to the United States. Upon his arrival, he lived in a California resettlement camp where he worked during the day and attended Christian religious meetings in the evening. Eventually an extended-family member sponsored his move to North Carolina, where he bought his farm with his siblings in 1999.
Tom and Sokchea have always cultivated a small vegetable plot on their farm, with numerous crops that are staples of their Southeast Asian diet, including Ping Tung long eggplants, jujube fruits, Chinese long beans, lemongrass, waxy corn, persimmons, Thai basil, mint, watercress, lotus, specialty mini eggplants, and kaffir limes. Now, Tom and Sokchea are working with Transfarmation to expand their crop production and build out a space to cultivate specialty mushrooms.
“I am really excited about this opportunity for using poultry houses for another purpose,” Tom shared. “I feel terrible that the poultry barn is currently just sitting there and doing nothing. I want to take it and put it to better use.”
Tom and Sokchea want to create a farm that is not only productive but peaceful. Their love of the land and of farm life is clear. Tom explained: “In the morning before the work starts, we enjoy watching the sunrise. Then, at the end of the day when the work is done, we like to sit together and watch the sunset. That is our favorite part of being on the farm.”
Do you raise chickens, pigs, or other animals and want to grow plants instead?
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Forty-five percent of U.S. farmers have a negative net income. The median net poultry farm income was $13,140 in 2018, meaning half the poultry farmers in the country earned less than this amount.
Four percent of U.S. farms control 58 percent of farmland, while 13 percent of U.S. farms control 0.14 percent of farmland.
Fifty-five percent of poultry farms have debt, while 67.7 percent of dairy farms have debt.
Family farm Chapter 12 bankruptcies grew by almost 20 percent from 2018 to 2019. Ninety-five percent of dairy farms are family farms. There were 3,281 fewer dairy milk operations in 2019 than in 2018.