If there is one thing I’ve learned while working in agriculture, it’s that farming is a high-frustration field. Cattle farmers are frustrated because beef is sky high at the grocery store but dirt cheap at the sale barn. Grain farmers are frustrated because they have to haul their soybeans all the way to Georgia to the nearest soybean processing plant, increasing transportation costs. Blackberry farmers are frustrated that the wholesaler refuses so-called “overripe” berries just to keep the supply down, sticking farmers with tractor-trailer loads of perfectly-fine and highly-perishable berries. Poultry farmers are frustrated because their integrators keep forcing them to upgrade their houses, for no other reason than to keep them in debt and leveraged to the hilt. Farmers’ market vendors are frustrated by Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and the .75 cent gallon of organic milk at Aldi.
And what ties all the farmers together is a general frustration–that everyone else is oblivious to their particular frustration, that they’re left to shoulder these problems alone amidst an unsupportive, if not hostile, public.
Maybe not unsupportive in words, but certainly in deeds–at least when it comes to politicians. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a politician talk about how their granddeddy was a farmer, how they love farming, how we need farmers, I could probably afford to farm. But if there is a second thing I’ve learned in my time in agriculture, it’s that even a light-weight politician will produce more steaming heaps than a full-sized cow.
And I say this knowing we need farmers to engage in the political process. Where I live there are no farmers on the planning board, board of adjustment, or county commission. The deck is stacked with realtors, lawyers, and a few general wackos, the latter of which are most likely to commiserate with the plight of farmers, but I’m not sure we want the guys who tote their AK-47s into Dollar General to be the face of modern agriculture.
Only 2% of the population farms anymore, which is a miniscule number to begin with, but by the time the warring factions within the 2% get done pillorying each other, then the collective voice has been pummeled down to a whimper. All this is to say we need young well-spoken farmers–small, big, conventional, organic–to get involved and at least try to get along sometimes, otherwise I’m afraid we’re just whimpering into the wind.
13 thoughts on “Whimpering Into the Wind”
If you want someone to join a Board etc. to speak for the farmers, you may have to hire them. The farmers I know work our butts off and have no time to mess with the politics of it all – which is so sad, and so unfair. Yes, the Farmer should have a louder voice, but from whom? When you are putting blood, sweat, and lots of tears into staying in operation, how do you find time to tell the Politicians whats-what? Unless you have been (or are) a Farmer, you would have no clue how things really operate day-to-day. So who speaks for us? We grew up as kids on an 80-acre farm in Wisconsin and I swear people loved, respected, and even helped out from time-to-time back then. Most of the items in our small town grocery stores came from the local farmers (and I am NOT that old – scary). I remember selling strawberries, potatoes, carrots etc. fresh from our HUGE garden or fields to the local store. You can only find that at Farmers Markets or Flea Markets AND THEN, they have to spend the whole day(or days) there doing the selling – or pay someone else to sell for them – again loss of time or funds. So how do Farmers get someone to speak for them?
Nice post – thank you for sharing and I love reading your articles!
Yeah, I don’t know either. Occasionally, I have seen some get fed up enough that they decide to speak for themselves. I just found out that last week a farmer here in my county has filed to run for county commissioner–first time a farmer has run in thirty years.
It is a sorry state of affairs when everything becomes politicized. I really respect Joel Salatin and like reading his blog ‘The Lunatic Farmer’ b/c he really makes an effort in his area politics and gets lots of replies of differing opinions. I think as long as the public puts quantity over quality and junk food over homemade there is nothing the politicians can or will do for farmers. I’d say, stop pandering to the politicians and go straight to the people. And I don’t say that lightly either, because I truly believe the old saying “If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.” I just think it’s gotten THAT BAD. There is really no hope in our government anymore, and there hasn’t been for a few decades now, at least. If we keep throwing our hope into the politicians to care about the people instead of the power we will get exactly what we deserve—more fake food that requires more fake ‘health’care.
Yeah, there is no doubt about it, a lot of our healthcare problem starts with our dietary choices and lifestyle choices. I wish I had Salatin’s marketing ability. My problem is I really like the farming side of things but hate the marketing side of things. Selling directly to the public is so draining and time consuming.
I agree, same here. But that’s ‘our’ market, here in the west, which is about to change significantly, imo. Folks are about to become much more agreeable and less demanding, I think. Scarcity has a tendency to do that. 🙂
Well said. And I have to say I think the first comment is right. From what I can see, farmers are so busy trying to survive, they have little time for anything else. Someday — probably too late — we will realize what we’ve lost in our endless quest for cheap food. Maybe we need to take a step back and consider what we really need. And good, locally sourced (when possible) food should be near the top of the list, well in front of a new SUV every few years and a huge house.
I realize I sound a little cranky about this. I’m practicing to be an outspoken old lady (and from where I sit, I think it’s likely I’ll be successful at the endeavor).
No worries–we definitely need more people to be outspoken and cranky about the difficulties farmers face.
Supposedly Bill Gates owns the most US farmland, in order to make soy burger converts out of us. But other than that, yeah, I can’t see how anyone makes money doing this.
One of my future posts is going to be on “Why to get Chickens” or similar. It’s definitely NOT to make money or even eggs, though that’s nice. But very expensive.
Yep, you’ll never recoup the money for the coup, lol.
I am afraid there is a huge disparity between farmers inside knowledge of farming and the publics view. There is not enough practical information about day to day farming and there are also farmers who do not promote good farming practices and carry an arrogance about their role…that’s not a dig, but I live on a beef farm and myself, I keep poultry and am in Creuse, cow country…some farmers are lazy here and they moan, but do not efficiently run their farms…the public see it. The good farms are not advertised enough in media…when was the last time we actually had a programme about farming? I hate the rise if the super market, the lack of local markets and our farmer has to sell his beef to the Italians! The public need to stop putting power into the supermarkets and insist on local produce again..better for the farmers, the animals, the crop growers. In Creuse the young won’t farm. Its not respected. Re making money..I would if I sold my eggs. If I upscaled I would make money…but it needs efficiencies that many farmers here do not practice…old styles die hard.
But things need to change.
The price of meat here is prohibitively expensive but that profit doesn’t reach the farmers. Hence the farmers rebel on occasion and dump manure in the Supermarket car parks! Not the way as the public just see that as petty.
Well said. I think the general public thinks of farming as simple and something anybody can do, but the reality is farming is so complex.
We don’t often hear the issues farmers face. Thanks for giving examples.
Here in the northeast, the local supermarket chain (Hannafords) clearly marks local (or regional) produce. It’s not insignificant. And the local Market Basket buys flats of pansies from a local friend of mine; they sell out fast! I’m not sure how this trend started, but buying local in the supermarkets is great.