The boys and I made the trip back home to northern Illinois over the weekend, without my husband who was in the fields still, and someone asked, “Does your husband just farm?”.
I understood the question. The person asking was wondering if that was his full time job or if he had another job. And the person asking was certainly not meaning any offense by the question. But it had me thinking for many of the miles home.
My husband, like any farmer, is not “just” a farmer. He is a well-educated, smart man. And this is not unique to my husband. Most all the successful farmers I know are ridiculously smart. In no way are these people “just” farmers. So here is a list of just some of the roles farmers play every day.
·Laborers: Much of their day is spent doing physical labor. Before I sat down at my desk this morning my husband had physically hauled feed to several hundred animals and picked about 30 dozen ears of sweet corn. A few months ago we participated in a Fitbit challenge and I was blown away when my husband consistently out-stepped me (the runner!).
One day I had an EIGHTEEN mile run. I got up at 4am and purposely ran around town in circles for 18 miles. He out-stepped me that day (they were building fence) by 100 steps. I cried.
·Scientists: They are constantly gathering and analyzing data, testing soils and plants, analyzing those tests to make informed decisions about what the next move will be. This year for instance, my husband has had to monitor the rain fall on each of his fields to try and gage how the nutrient content, soil health and plants will be affected from the large amounts of moisture we have had and determine if there is anything they can do to help their plants.
If you doubt the intelligence of a farmer, check out this guide from North Carolina Department of Ag that is supposed to help a person read a soil test.
·Weathermen: The farmer does not rely on the local news channel for his forecast. Instead, he gets out his smart phone and looks at a dozen different websites, analyzes the radar maps, and makes his best determinations about when to plant, when to mow hay, and when to hold off. These decisions can be the difference between making a profit or not.
People married to farmers do not check the weather either – we simply call our farmer (who is probably more accurate)!
·Chemists: Many farmers have their chemical applicators licenses and are required to study and understand the chemicals they are using. Watching my husband prepare his sprayer is like watching a chemist at work in a lab. He is intimately familiar with the chemicals he is using, their purpose, risks and hazards, and the exact measurements and mixtures he needs to be safe and effective!
·Veterinarians: Livestock farmers simply cannot rely on their local veterinarian all the time. They have to know about medications, dosages, and wound care. It’s not uncommon during calving or lambing season for my husband to have to deliver babies, treat mamma for something and treat babies for something in the middle of the night when no one else is available.
·Buyers: The options available to farmers for seed, chemical, fertilizers, loan products, equipment and more are endless. They have to spend time sorting through all of the data and reviews to make the best decisions for their operations. Unlike popular internet myth, Monsanto does not make a single one of these decisions for the farmer and Monsanto is only one of many choices they have.
·Marketers: Farmers have to market their own grain, hopefully at the right times. They have to make the final determination about what to sell and when. Again, these decisions can mean the difference between being able to make the farm payment or not.
·Lobbyists: Farmers now make up less than 1% of the population. This means each year politicians care less and less about how their legislation affects farmers. Several times a year my husband puts on his suit and tie and heads to our state capital to meet with lawmakers and tell his side of the story.
·Heavy Equipment Operators: So this is probably a given. Most people think of farmers driving their HUGE tractors in the fields. But farmers also have to navigate those giant pieces of equipment down city streets and highways, safely! This is a huge challenge for them during planting and harvest and one of the most stressful things about their job. So always remember to SLOW DOWN when you see farm equipment on the road!
·Mechanics: Farm equipment breaks down. It breaks down in fields that are miles and miles from anywhere. And most farmers can fix most anything and have to, often times in a hurry.
·Men of God: They know there is only a portion of their job they can control and huge portion they cannot. They cannot control the weather, disease, pests, prices and more. So they look up and ask the Good Lord to give them the tools they need to make it another year doing what they love.
Whatever farmers do they always do it well!
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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