We Should Respect Our Farmers

Farming is a very American occupation. We often praise our “amber waves of grain” as essential to our national identity. Is there anything that suggests America more than the farmer overlooking his fields?

Yet, farming is a career that has a lot of difficulties to it. The economics of farming are notoriously complicated, especially now that the market is no longer the next town, or the next state, or even the whole country, but is instead vast and intimately internationally connected. The corn grown in Iowa will be sold all over the world, and working through the economics of such things is extremely complicated.

While that means there are more customers, it also means there are more competitors and more demands from different regions for the product.

Beyond this, there are the old worries of farming, such as protection from insects and disease that can destroy the crops. There’s also the old fear of droughts and floods, as well as winters that run too long and summers that run too hot. These concerns are sure to increase as climate change becomes more prominent.

So, farming is already complex because of the economics of the business, plus the natural difficulties of growing produce. In addition to this, there is the competition of corporate farms which have massive economic sway and backing. Such corporations can control the market and can afford to wait for better prices or a better growing season.

All this and little has even been discussed of the actual process of farming. There, farmers have to worry about the price of seed and the type of seed to use. With GMOs, there is the potential to avoid certain pests and diseases, but the need to purchase everything from a single supplier, which can raise costs. Plus, GMOs have developed a bad name, and so the use of such products, while helping the crop, could cut into the number of customers available after it’s grown.

Further, there are always the physical dangers of the farm. Some farms are set out in areas that are still very wild, where animals could still attack livestock or even family. The tractors and other heavy machinery (which first of all is incredibly expensive to purchase) also holds real risk of causing injury either through carelessness or through mechanical malfunction.

All these risks suggest that while farming may conjure an image of charm and idleness, the reality is far different. The work is hard, the business risky, and the life can be dangerous. There are competitors everywhere, a vast world market to try to not just understand but to predict, and a huge potential for catastrophe from nature or elsewhere.

This means we should make a greater effort to appreciate our farmers. Their job is an essential part of our American identity, still today, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.