By Tammie Beasley
It seems like everyone has been publicly thanked for their contributions to this country, especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, except the American farmers. So, I’d like to take this time to recognize and thank the American farmers for their dedication and perseverance. Without them, there would be no deliveries, no feed for cattle, no food or dairy, prescription medications, lotions, hand sanitizers and many other products that we take for granted. The economy affects them just like it does all of us. And, just like us, they are not sure how the COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately affect them. But they also have the added threats of weather, namely droughts or floods, which affect their ability to produce these crops. Famine or feast certainly applies to the American farmer.
Per the Kentucky Food and Farm Administration, agricultural land is defined as any tract of 10 acres or more used for the production of crops, livestock, tobacco or timber, any tract of five acres or more used for commercial aquiculture (the cultivation of crops in natural water), or any tract meeting the requirements for payments for participation in an agricultural program.
The definition of a farmer is a person who owns, works, or operates an agricultural enterprise, either commercially or to sustain himself/herself or his/her family. Meade County history is rich in the tradition of farming. Many of our parents and grandparents have farmed land in Meade County for decades, and many grew up in farming families. It is a way of life to them. Kentucky agriculture is dominated by small family farms. The average farm size in Kentucky is 171 acres.
I spoke with a farm family in Meade County who have been farming for 120 years. Some people assume farmers have a garden, livestock, and tobacco only. However, this family and many other Meade County farmers now grow grain only, which consists of soybeans and corn.
Farmers must learn to program satellites, combines and other farming equipment. They work with dealerships and computer technicians who wrote the programs for combines to develop a thorough knowledge of weather radar systems, wind speed, and chemicals. Farmers are no longer considered just sod-busters!
The average yearly cost for farm equipment and repairs can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. One year’s produce can make or break a farmer. This farm family say they have had several years that they came close to almost losing everything. The number of people employed by farmers depends on the size of the farms owned and/or leased.
Costs for Meade County farmers have risen. Trucks have to go farther to deliver, so the cost of wear and tear on the trucks, fuel, and time paid to the drivers has risen vastly.
I come from a family of farmers, although I only lived on a farm for a short time as a baby and then my family moved to Brandenburg. However, I knew many family members and classmates who operated or worked on farms. They worked from dawn to sometimes midnight planting, harvesting, and stripping tobacco in the spring, summer and fall. Taking care of livestock was, and still is, a year-round job. Children of farmers missed school to help their families out on the farm. Some families that had small farm operations ended up losing their farms.
All in all, farming is a risky but necessary business for the American people. So the next time you get behind a tractor or other farm machinery on the highway, try to curb your inclination to be agitated, something we are probably all guilty of, and help them to drive safely by turning on your emergency blinkers if you are following them. And if you see a farmer today, thank him or her for their dedication to the American people.