October 12 may be National Farmer’s Day, but I can’t quite bring myself to say “Happy Farmers Day.” I don’t know too many “happy farmers.”
I know a lot of suffering farmers - farmers suffering from low prices and costs that exceed their income. I know a lot of persevering farmers, who in spite of the lack of profit and even the loss of equity, are laboring through the bad times.
I know a lot of frustrated farmers because they don’t have any idea when they can expect prices to go up. I know a lot of tired farmers because they have had to let employees go, and do the work themselves to save money.
If the pain were a sudden sharp pain, farmers would bear it with hardly a whimper. But the low milk prices have gone on and on and on for four years straight now. It has dulled some to the constant pain, but they feel it when they look into the eyes of their spouse and children and shake their head again.
Yet, to be a farmer is to be optimistic. Farmers plant in the spring and wait for the day when the shoots break the ground. They pray for rain and know that their crop depends on timely water. Harvest comes months after the planting and the saying goes that it is not a crop until it is harvested and in storage, for sometimes, rain seems to be endless at harvest time.
Maybe it is better said that farmers take the long view. That’s a quality sorely lacking in today’s world. People have little patience and want results now. But farmers cannot speed up the crop. Sure, even farmers have cut time out of processes and out of down-times in the lives of their cattle. Even so, they are taking the long view.
They take the long view because they have to keep things in perspective. Cattle health is the result of a lot of little things that are done regularly, things such as vaccination, good nutrition, clean beds and frequent sanitation. They take the long view on crops, understanding the need to add nutrients back to the soil to replace what they remove and to be builders of soil health.
They take the long view because they look across the dinner table at their sons and daughters who might want to carry on the family business and know that if they do, they are in for many sleepless nights. They look up on the wall and see the picture of the farm as Grandpa and Grandma had it, and another as it was during their parent’s time.
Even in these dark days, farmers maintain a pride of doing the best for their cows. They produce quality milk because they value quality milk, not because the market values it. They care for their cows with gentleness because the cows pay the bills, at least the bills that are getting paid right now. They still promote their products because the consumer really does need to know.
Their resiliency carries farmers. The encouragement and love of others helps them. The hope for a better future inspires them. Their faith undergirds them.
How much more can they take? The answer will be different in each household, but in that of a friend of mine, he personalized that phrase and said it aloud as he read it in a farm magazine. Instantly, his 11 year-old daughter replied, “a lot more!” That alone is enough to go on for months!
So, as we approach National Farmers’ Day, I want to recognize the farmers who continue on in spite of the hardships. They continue to produce the food and fiber on which each of us depends. They do so without protests, without fanfare, without much to go on except their inner drive.
I am thankful for the quality and variety of food available. I am somewhat embarrassed to pay such a small portion of income for the world’s safest food, while the producers of it are hurting. But maybe it helps to say “thank you” to them, to the men and women, the boys and girls who call themselves a “farmer.”
Thanks for all you do. Thanks for your hard work. I hope that soon you will be rewarded as you should be. Happy Farmers’ Day.