Friday, October 19, 2018

Which type of farmer are you?

September 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Clodhopper


Farmers aren’t always what they used to be – and core values are disappearing fast, says Clodhopper.

Pre-harvest is usually the time I catch up with friends – we talk about the past year and gauge each other’s thoughts and ideas for the forthcoming 12 months.

At our recent get-together, one finance expert was very bullish. Usually for him, June is a slow month. But he enjoyed telling everyone who would listen that farmers seem keen to invest in projects – not just on the machinery side but also in land and various solar panel projects too.

Encouraged by low interest rates and good commodity prices, our expert said farmers were keen to keep up-to-date – and keep up with the farm next door too. I listened to the various tales of who had stepped on whose toes, and began to wonder what exactly constitutes a farmer these days?

Traditionally, a farmer is a person engaged in agriculture: raising living organisms for food or raw materials. He or she may raise field crops, orchards, vineyards or livestock. The farmer may own the land or work on the land. He or she is usually the farm owner – or tenant – and employees of the farm are farm workers.

This is all basic stuff. But it sets the background to what follows. And while I listened to my friends’ tales of how they combined until 2.30am and then started work at 6am the next morning, or how last autumn they drilled all night, I began to question their tales.

For me there are two types of farmer: the first being the one who does all the work; the second being the one who talks the work and drives about all day.

The first is the farmer who spends every working hour thinking or worrying about all aspects of farming. He plans his daytime activities as best he can assuming the weather forecast sticks to predictions. He awakes early, arrives early and starts the day on a tractor seat. The early preparation will have been done by him and in days gone past his day would end about 7pm.

This first farmer’s world once consisted of driving and keeping straight. But the interference of the mobile phone has enabled him to take his farm office into the tractor cab. So peace and quiet no longer exist as everyday life enters his world.

Some problems can be solved there and then. Others have to be taken to the farm office. Some may require quick answers so the tractor has to stop. After a long day on the tractor seat, there is a quick meal and the office chair becomes his second home where the problems have to be resolved.

Normal hours are acceptable. But come the harvest and autumn workload, the overriding tiredness and stress can take its toll. The first farmer – maybe a one-man-band with perhaps only a few hundred acres to manage – often does all the manual work, all the paperwork and all the problem solving. His time is committed totally to the farm.

The second farmer is the type who always seems to combine more per day than anybody else. He always works later than anybody else and yet always seems to have more time away from the farm.

He rides about in a bright new vehicle with his elbow sticking out of the window. He is always dressed smartly and never has need of farm overalls. He can point to certain fields, arrange to cut this area of the contracted land and guarantee that his combine or tractor will be there at 7.30am.

This farmer can find time to answer his mobile phone, have a long lunch break and yet still be home early and in bed before 11pm. He does very little manual work – is probably not capable of it at all – and yet is happy enough to order people about expecting them to work all hours.

He complains when a certain acreage has not been achieved for that day, can draw up farming contracts and take on large extra acres on the back of his farm workers’ efforts. He can mix with the upper tier of farming life and be pleased that all his efforts end in success.

This second farmer cannot understand apathy within the industry and anybody with a less than “can-do attitude”. He loves the gossip of the farming industry and plans to catch his so-called new friends by farming every available acre at whatever cost.

He does not mind stepping on toes to do this or that or upset the neighbour. When conditions conspire against him, he is aghast that such people would conduct themselves in such a manner. He seems to belittle the smaller farmer and loves the scale of his operations.

Credit to the second farmer. He has expanded, borrowed heavily and taken a gamble. But the first farmer stands true to his word. He quietly does his job. If a neighbour needs help, he lends a hand because he genuinely wants to help out. And his efforts are given without favour.

The first farmer treats people with honesty and expects that in return. He seldom sees this honesty returned and expects to fight a fair fight. With smaller farms being taken over or being pushed out with untrustworthy agents, I feel the industry is winding its way towards the selected few.

With core values fast disappearing, ask yourself which farmer you have become. And whether the course you first started out on has been achieved and at what cost. Let’s hope farmer one comes out on top over farmer two.

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