Corporate Farms vs. Family Farms: What’s the Difference?

On July 2, 2018

There’s a (mis)perception that corporate farms are giant conglomerates. In fact, most Kansas “corporate” farms are owned by families. Becoming incorporated is a way for families to create and structure a business together, while protecting themselves — just like any small business owner would.

We talked with a few farmers about what it means to be incorporated, why they went that route and other questions people often ask. Here’s what they had to say.

What’s the Difference?

“There is no physical difference between a family farm and a corporate farm. Ninety-five percent of farms are family farms just like ours, even though it is considered a corporation. It comes down to another label. The biggest misconception about corporate farming is that farms must be very large in size and for some reason that is considered ‘bad.’ Without large farms’ scientific and technological advancements we wouldn’t be able to feed the world. These are essential elements if we want there to be enough food for everyone. These advancements are utilized on both large corporate farms and your typical family-owned farm. The larger corporate farms might have more of a direct path to the grocery store shelves than the smaller farms. The food that is produced is the same though. Just because a farm is larger, smaller, corporate or not corporate doesn’t affect the quality of the food that is produced.”

Jacquelyne Leffler (far left), Americus, Kan.

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Why Incorporate Your Farm?

“Our farm was incorporated. It’s a corporate farm, but it’s a family-owned business. The shareholders are my parents and brothers. We chose to organize our business that way to protect ourselves and it allows us to grow. It’s no different from what any small business owner would do. It’s just good business.”

Austin Heiniger, Heinco, Inc. in Fairview

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What Do You Wish People Knew About Corporate Farms?

“I wish consumers realized there are people behind the ‘corporate’ farms. I know farmers in every state across the country from very large commodity farms to smaller, niche farms. And there are families behind them that are just like you and me. They are running a business. My farm is a multigenerational farm with three families working together to balance family and kids and coordinate everything. We just happen to work together under the umbrella of a corporation.”

Jill Casten (far right), Casten Farms, LLC

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Do Large Corporations Control Small Corporate Farms?

“One thing that I get asked on occasion is if we’re a corporate farm. As I’ve been researching, what I think that question actually [means] is: ‘are these large corporations making decisions for us?’ or ‘do we work for a large corporation?’ We are a family farm that’s owned and managed by ourselves... We ultimately make those [business] decisions.”

LaVell Winsor, Winsor Family Farms in Grantville 

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