When I returned from a recent dairy meeting with fun young people, my friend said, “How many young farmers are there, really? Because all I read about is how farmers are all dying out.”
Of course, there are lots of old farmers, but it’s just because they’re so visible. They never stop working. Most people are trying to retire, but farmers seem to want to work on their farms until the day they die.
But the overalls … I rocked the overalls in college. Shorts overalls, corduroy overalls – back when (for fashion reasons unknown – how best to make you look shapeless?) they were in style. I haven’t worn them since, but every picture of the stereotypical farmer shows them in overalls. Kris doesn’t own overalls. They seem very hard to wear when you’re outside without bathroom facilities, if you know what I mean.
I love pointing to cartoon pictures of farmers in books to my kids. They’re always plump. The farmer’s wife is always baking and the farmer is usually holding a pitchfork. “Does this look like a farmer?” I say. “NOOOOO!” they chorus.
There are young farmers, old farmers, and middle aged farmers. On the farm, they wear a lot of work clothes. I see a lot of sleeveless t-shirts, work boots, hats, and Carhartt coats. Off the farm, they blend in with everyone else.
If you do see someone in overalls, it’s safe to assume it’s Halloween or a 90s party.
2. Farms have one of every animal.
Back in the day, many farms had a variety of animals. It was a cheaper way to eat. You had the space or buildings so you may as well house some pigs or steers to eat.
Now, farms are much more specialized. A pig farm has pigs. A chicken farm has chickens. Our dairy farm has … you got it! Cows.
In fact, we don’t own even one other kind of animal. No dog, no cat, no horse. Nothing. This surprises and disappoints some people who come to tour. But that’s what 4-H Fairs are for! That’s where we take our own children to see other farm animals!
3. Farmers are uneducated.
It’s true. You don’t have to go to college to own a farm. You don’t have to go to college to do a lot of things. But despite that fact, a lot of farmers have college degrees. Many of them go to school for ag-related degrees, but a lot do not. For instance, my dad got an engineering degree. So did Kris.
There are a lot of respected agricultural programs, but any schooling opens you up to different experiences and education you can bring back to the farm.
Which brings us to …
4. Farming is never a choice - it’s something you’re born into.
I know a lot of farmers. Yes, a fair amount of people know they want to farm as their career when they grow up on a farm. But there is a large population of people who decided to farm. They had other careers, lived other lives, and then decided to farm. Of course it’s easier when your family is already involved in farming, but there are also first generation farmers who just choose to get into the industry.
My dad decided at one point that he wanted to own his own business. He was weighing whether he wanted to go into business with his dad or if he wanted to buy a car wash. He went with the farm, but said if the car wash had gone through, it would have been a fine decision, too. I’ve used a car wash about ten times in my life, but I consume dairy every day. It seems like he made the better choice.
5. Farmers go to bed early and get up early.
They only try to go to bed early and don’t, night after night. Kris’ alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. every morning. Knowing that, it seems that he would go to bed early and get more sleep. However, there are so many things at night - every night - that prevent this from happening. Kids, bills, feed ration figuring, scheduling, talking to people, going out, things breaking at the barn after he comes home, and of course, talking to me. Some farmers take a short nap to make it through the day. Kris isn’t a napper, but sometimes on the days that are hard physically, he just drops. Once this summer he fell asleep on the floor of our cement porch. When you’re tired, you’re tired.
At the beginning of this year he said his new year’s resolution was to get to bed before 11:00 p.m. Reflecting on this year, he accomplished it probably nine times. Better luck in 2014!