Just yesterday (March 10) I finished writing an article in which an ambitious young Farm Bureau member said these exact words: “Being young and willing to work is kind of a rare commodity these days.”
That notion is echoed in some of the responses to our February discussion topic about attracting ag labor. I’ve also heard it time and again, directly from our own farmers, in countless conversations on the same topic. I always ask them how true it is that local residents (“domestic workers” if you prefer) aren’t interested in farm jobs, and they almost always confirm it’s true: Of the few locals they can attract, far fewer stick to it for any length of time.
It must be a frustrating reality for farm employers when so many able-bodied folks are out of work, whether due to the pandemic or for any other reason. Farming is such notoriously hard work that it’s become a cliché to illustrate how unsuited for it most people are, especially us townies and city slickers.
Number crunchers have probably figured the percentage of farm kids who stay vs. those who leave the farm behind, as well as how many boomerang back to the farm after a taste of life behind a desk. (Makes you wonder why office buildings are sometimes called “cubicle farms.” It’s not a compliment.)
I’ve met plenty of those boomerang kids over the years and they all have the same story: After X years in the office/professional/outside world, they missed the farm and did one of two things:
So what’s the attraction? What’s the strange gravitational force (mAGnetism, LOL) that causes so many farm escapees to return to the vocation they forsook?
As luck would have it that answer is also found in the responses below, courtesy of Huron County’s Golden Fawns: “A rural lifestyle and work ethic has advantages that the city does not provide.”
That’s so true it’s formed the foundation of city folks’ naïve idealization of country life since antiquity. (Do not get me started.) Trouble is, try telling that to a young person itching and clawing to escape their rural upbringing for all that excitement in town, college or the “big city.”
Where I’m headed with this is that maybe we can improve our ag-labor recruitment efforts by doing a better job marketing those “advantages that the city does not provide.”
Smell something? I think I just caught a whiff of another discussion topic…