Going to activities that include friends and folks from the urban, business or industrial areas is always interesting and educational. Talking with them about what they do, what their business or profession involves helps to understand what is going on in our area. These folks are usually well-informed and learning about their business or profession is interesting. At the same time many of them are not well-informed about one of the most important economic activities in our area, that of farming. Sometimes a few are even miss-informed about today’s agriculture or farmers themselves.
Just what is a farmer? In some respects, he or she is an executive in a denim shirt and blue jeans. He wears a dusty baseball style cap with some company logo. He may carry in his pockets some change, a well-used pocket knife, a little memo book to keep quick records to transfer later, his check book, billfold, screw driver, one of those fold-up combination tools, a pencil and handkerchief.
During any given day, you might find him or her several places on the farm. In the barn milking the cows, out working up the ground to plant the crops, putting on fertilizer, harvesting the crops and a host of other activities. In today’s world, farming requires considerable paper work so the office in their home is essential. Or a salesperson may come along that takes some time to find out what is new and different that may or may not be needed on the farm. He can be a purchasing agent because decisions have to be made about what to buy to keep his farming business going.
Today’s farm use a lot of sophisticated equipment. So he needs to be an engineer to learn how to operate all that equipment. Like anything mechanical, it may break down so he has to become a repair person or know when the job is beyond him and call the repair shop.A farmer also has to be a scientist in many ways. He has to know what his soil is like and what kind of fertilizer and how much it will need. Or what is the best seed variety to plant. He has to understand that complicated digestive system of his cows to figure out what and how much to feed them for the most economical milk production.
Weather may delay farmers but never completely stop them. They do have to be weather watchers because so much of what they do depends on the weather. Then when it rains every day they want to plant crops, try not to get too frustrated but practice patience. And that is not always easy. Farmers do enjoy their families, good food, sunshine, auctions, the county fair, their neighbors and a dish of ice cream now and then. They enjoy their home, a comfortable chair and watching the evening news on TV–if they are in the house by then. Winter time Extension or company meetings where they can learn about new practices are favorites. They don’t particularly like weeds, plant diseases, some insects and too much paper work, which keeps getting worse. Nor do they enjoy too many unnecessary government regulations that make it tough for them to farm or animal rights groups that want to put them out of the livestock business.
Farmers must have faith that in spite of adverse weather they will get their crops planted or harvested. At the same time, they recognize that an act of God can make life very difficult.So next time you see a farmer in a denim shirt and blue jeans, remember they are an executive managing more money than most business people in town and are providing you with an abundant, quality food supply.
John Parker is a Farm Bureau member and an independent agriculture writer living in Ashtabula County.