Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From Glen...Rich Farmers

On a recent trip in New Orleans I took a cab to the airport for my departure back home. When taking a cab I always try to make a point to visit with the cab driver, providing they are friendly and willing to talk. Our conversation was not unusual from any other. We were talking about the weather and some of the interesting things to see and do in New Orleans when he asked what I did for a living. I told him that I was a farmer and that I was involved in raising cattle. His immediate response was “so, if you are a farmer you must be rich”. “Rich” I said? “No, I am far from being rich.”

I explained to him that while farmers and ranchers may have many different assets, in the form of land, barns, equipment, and livestock, we are anything but rich. I went on to say that people in production agriculture often times carry a large amount of debt. Loans must be taken to replace old worn out tractors and equipment or to purchase land at increasingly higher prices because developers want to build in the area. I explained that often before a farmer can plant their crop that seed, fertilizer, and other expenses must be met. All before the ground is even prepared. Pests and weeds must be controlled to help maintain the yield. Aside from all of that, there’s always the chance that Mother Nature could come through and wipe out a crop with a storm, flood, or drought. Similarly, livestock farmers face many challenges that can make it hard to make ends meet and pay the bills. “You know” he said “I never thought of it that way.” Farmers face many of the same challenges that small business owners, and people in general, face when it comes to making a living.

After we arrived at the airport, I paid the fare, grabbed my luggage, and headed to get my boarding pass I began thinking about what the cabbie had said. Is that what people think about farmers, that we are rich?

It was still on my mind when I landed back at our local airport and got into my muddy farm truck, which painfully stuck out amongst a sea of shinny cars and SUV’s. As I headed homeward, the houses and subdivisions grew fewer and fewer and the rows of streetlights were replaced with fencerows and cow pastures. I returned home to the farm where, not only I was raised but also my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. I could not help but think of the blessings that farmers experience every day. The fresh air and green grass, the ability to raise the safest and most abundant food supply in the world. I am able to raise my children in a rural setting while teaching them the values of a hard day’s work. Farmers are rich the cabbie says? Maybe we are rich after all.

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