Updated: Mar 3
Sooner or later, the truth always catches up with a person. I am afraid that time has finally reached my own doorstep. Due to some accusations regarding poorly hidden facts about who I really am, I feel I have but one choice in this matter. I have a confession to make. Yes, I have deep ties with the local agricultural industry, and I am terribly biased towards the American farmer, especially the ones who operate in Meade County and the surrounding region.
It is true; I was born and raised a farmer’s son. Most of the interactions I had with adults as a child were with farmers or farm families. Once I became a teenager, I ran from that farm as quick as I could upon graduation and didn’t come back until well over a decade later. In that time away from it, something began to happen. I fell into the same trap so many people removed from the ag industry tend to do. I began to forget the never ending hours of labor, the busted knuckles and grease stained clothes, the persistent stress of constantly fighting an uphill battle against time, weather, stock markets and a whole slew of other factors that ceaselessly work towards a farmer’s demise. I began to buy into that romanticized American Gothic view the general public tends to have of a farmer: no bosses to answer to, make your own schedule, get to play with cute, cuddly animals all day long, have an office view that would make anyone jealous and heck, they had to be rich, just look at all the land and equipment they have.
It didn’t take long, however, to remember what a myth that all truly was. It turns out you can make your own schedule, but anything short of working seven days a week, most of the time, will get you one step closer to bankruptcy and even that may not keep the wolves at bay. Those animals become your children and livelihood all at the same time. When the depths of winter set in and many are snuggled up in the warmth of their heated homes, you find yourself busting ice so they can drink and destroying the pasture you worked so hard all year at establishing, just so you can get food out to them before they starve. Like a child, they get sick and some will die along the way. All your blood, sweat and tears can’t stop the never ending assault on your bottom line. Pestilence and disease will ruin the best cared for crops, as you try to grab a little sleep during the night. Droughts and floods do not care what you stand to lose. All while the average American consumer spends a lower percentage of their paycheck on food, despite eating better than anyone else in the world. Yet, many still find the time to complain over ten to twenty cents or even worse, blame the farmer for all the woes of our world’s climate and environment, no matter how many Master Conservationist Awards you may win. The majority of that land is rented, the bank owns most of your equipment fleet, and you have to pay well over half a million dollars just to buy a combine or planting rig that is only used a few months out of the year. Oh, if only a tool belt were the only cost to work in this trade.
Eventually all these issues, along with many more not mentioned, began to take their toll on me to the point there was no turning back. I washed out of the field and came to the sad realization I just didn’t have what it took. The work ethic that would kill a prize mule, the pride in feeding an ungrateful population, and a devotion to the trade that outweighed quitting for so many before me had run too thin in my veins. I failed as a farmer and walked away from it with my head drooped in shame.
Farmers aren’t dumb. In fact, they are some of the smartest individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, but they are foolish, none the less, by today’s standards for sure. Who in their right mind would work all those hours for such little pay? Who would have their salary slashed in half and still show up to work the next day? Who would love a country the way they do, after being constantly kicked down the road like an old tin can? Who would watch their government bailout the banks, auto industry, Wall Street and big steel just to name a few, while the general public sat by hardly saying a word, and would watch those same people cry to the high heavens anytime the government tries to supplement the industry that feeds us all to prevent complete and total collapse, yet still saddle up on their tractor the next spring with the hope everything will soon turn around?
So, yes, I buy only Dean’s milk because just like every other family with farm ties, I knew when Walmart decided to destroy the family dairies of our country, long before the general public ever picked up on the story. Yes, I only buy Tyson chicken from a supermarket because I know families who make pennies on the dollar for those chickens the company sells, but at least its better than nothing. I try to support any local family who produces meat or vegetables on their local farms over supermarket value brands, as well. Just because someone has three degrees, it doesn’t mean they know anything as compared to those who actually have blood, sweat, and tears in the game. I appreciate the attempt to lecture me all the same.
So yes, I will confess, I am as biased as they come in regard to my support for the American farmer. You can take that to the bank! I for one love to eat but realize how woefully incapable I am at supplying my own food. I have stood close enough to the flames to realize this fact: there is less than two percent of the United States population preventing this country from being converted from the land of overstocked grocery stores and obesity into one more like a third world country with bread lines and starvation run rampant. Hundreds, if not thousands, of American farmers take the same walk of shame I did each year, forced to walk away from the industry they were born and bred to sustain because either their bank account or their sanity just won’t allow them to farm anymore. Many men and women with PHD’s behind their names have shown study after study that points to agriculture as the fastest growing, if not leading, industry in regard to depression and suicide rates within its ranks. So, unless eating food produced by China or large corporate farms that are worried only about their bottom dollar seems like better options, I would urge the general public to follow in my footsteps. There are a lot worse things than being called a biased supporter of the men and women who sacrifice so much to fill our plates every day, but don’t take my word for it. I’m just a biased reporter writing pro-family farm stories on the agriculture page of a small town, country newspaper.