Monday, February 17, 2020

What does it take to be a farmer?

I grew up on a farm. I am NOT anything close to being an expert on farming. It's been forty five ears since my dad retired and I went to work picking rocks for neighbors to make my summer cash. many things have changed in the last forty years. Some things are still the same.
Farming is not a nine to five job. If you become a farmer, you will put it long hours, get zero over time, zero time and a half, zero double time. Your vacation schedule will be determined by the crops, weather, your animals, and whether neighbors need help for any reason.
As a farmer you will have an expensive office. A good used combine might set you back $240,000. A new one will make that seem like chump change. Your tractor, the other office, will run as high as $300,000 used. Pretty keen for a one man operation?
You won't make it long alone. The weather and your animals wait for no one. make hay while the sun shines is more than a nifty saying, it's a way of life. A hard life at that.
Paying for that office should be easy right? Guess again. crops today bring in roughly the same as they did when I was a kid. Adjust for inflation and the numbers drop like hail stones. farmers today farm larger farms, and produce more per acre to get the return to pay for that equipment. To make it work, they need to be better educated than the farmers of yesteryear. My dad btw had a PHD, just not in agriculture. The old joke was a PHD in agricultural engineering was what the farmer used to make the holes to stand fence posts in., a Post Hole Digger. That isn't the case today. modern methods are making our farmers more productive. To compete in this multimillion dollar challenge, they need to be the best educated they can possibly be. They need a firm understanding of mechanics, botany, weather, biology, both plant and animal and a host of other specialties.
Understanding the ground they work is a key factor to being productive. Some ground is better left unseeded. I could be rocky, sandy, to steep, too acidic, or even too wet to grow a value crop. to understand their land, modern farmers rely on satellite technology. a look for near space can paint a clear  picture of what lies beneath the weeds and grass. Yup, add rocket scientist to the qualifications.
Above all though, it takes love to be a farmer. If the men and women who have dedicated their lives to farming didn't have a strong bond to the land, they would cashier it all and catch a bus to the city.
Sad to say though, many future farmers do. As with any demographic, the best and brightest head off to college. for many farm kids, it will be the end of their bond to the family farm. They will pursue new dreams, explore new opportunities. Some will return, drawn by the love of the land that held their mom and dad on that farm for many years.
I look back with nostalgia fairly often at the family farm. None of us kids took it over when dad retired. Instead, a neighbor absorbed it into his growing kingdom. when he died, it passed to his son. When I go back, I often stop and visit that kid. he's an old man now and getting close to the age when factory workers retire. Like so many farmers, that word is not in his lexicon. retiring on the farm means a new set of Goodyear radials for the tractor. Those cost money. LOTS of money.
My picture is inaccurate, I know, every farm is different, every farmer is different. Their numbers are dwindling yet still they feed America and the world. Got a full belly? Thank a farmer. Don't like the price? Don't blame them, there are only three cents worth of peas in that can you opened for supper. The rest of the price was packaging, shipping, and profits for people who never put a shovel in the ground nor watched a lamb being born late at night in freezing cold while fighting a blizzard to get the ewe back to the barn before the coyotes made a feast of her and the new one.
So what does it take to be a farmer? Rest assured, most folks, and especially mini Mike aint got it.


Unknown said...

Told blog entry. As usual, actually.
I found you via Don Surber's blog. Your postings are much appreciated. The music, too.
My niece & her husband own/work a dairy farm in northwest NY. Both are college degreed, brilliant, tough & hard working.
God bless our farmers & their families!!
And you, Jeremy.
-- Rhonda

Unknown said...

Auto-correct screwed my comment! I wrote Great blog entry!! Not "Told blog entry", geesh.
-- Rhonda