Why do farmers farm?

Ever have a hard time finding the right words…the “right” words that do not offend or hurt others, the “right” ones to describe your thoughts, feelings, the “right” words to show the world you know what you are talking about?

I recently had a conversation with a family member. She stated that her mom had mentioned that my family always works. “They don’t ever get to enjoy life, have fun, or even relax…They can’t be making any money. Why don’t they give it up.” 

It’s not the first time my parents, brothers or myself have heard these exact words. It’s not as if we haven’t all thought the same thing more than once. As I tried to defend my family’s choice to farm, I couldn’t find the words. I tried to explain that unless you farm, you just wouldn’t understand. I stumbled on my words and really the only ones I came up with were “farming is in us” and “we love it even though it’s hard.” 

It was a simple question. Why do they farm? Why do farmers farm? But that simple question was a really hard one to answer at that exact moment. My dad has a full-time job, as a welder, and is often on the road for 10 days at a time, leaving my mom to care for the farm on her own. I was frustrated with myself, because I couldn’t find the words to even try to share why my family, and all the other farm families, give up so much for a life that leaves them exhausted, stressed, and more often than not, losing money.

Like most things in life, it’s hard to understand if you’ve never lived it. Most people don’t experience it, let alone live it. Not much could seem appealing about farming to the normal person these days. We’ve had years of bad crop, milk, and livestock prices. It’s 365 days a year, the hours are long, it’s dirty, and even though the technology farmers use is amazing, there is still a lot of manual labor. It’s being cold in the winter and sweating in the summer. It’s missing dinner for a sick animal, and a sleepless night with a new baby. 

What I should have said is, it’s about love, it’s about accomplishment, and it’s about making a difference in this world. Food is the foundation of all life, and what better feeling than knowing you are a part of something so much bigger than you.  Finding your work to be meaningful is critical to your happiness, and being responsible for living things and the circle of life is definitely meaningful. 

Farmers love the sense of accomplishment when a new life is born on the farm — a life that has been created from years of studying and knowing our herd, and selecting traits that meet consumer demands yet work for your farm. When the plants that countless hours were spent planting and caring for produce a crop that feeds our families and many families all around our community and even the world. We love being outside, working the land, caring for the environment and working closely with our families. No matter how tired you are at the end of the day, there is no better feeling than the sense of accomplishment from hard work.  Farming takes dedication, passion and courage. It takes something in each farmer that keeps them waking up everyday to face the unknown and to work harder than they did the day before. It’s love for what they do. 

It’s a new year filled with new opportunity. So even if you can’t find the words for your why, do what makes you happy. Do what you love, what fulfills you, what gives you a sense of purpose. Do what sets your soul on fire. Just do it, and do it well.

Submitted by Mandy Orahood, OFBF organization director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull County Farm Bureaus.


OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.