When Times Get Tough, Farmers Keep Going My farmer husband started the day vaccinating calves that recently came home from a summer in the Kansas Flint Hills. He takes great pride in his animals and loves watching calves grow into great mommas and strong, lean steers. Today’s group of calves are big, beautiful animals that will, most likely, end up losing us money by the time all is said and done. When he finished with the calves, he moved onto surveying soybean fields that have yet to be cut. We finally got all of the corn out of the ground but fall harvest is far from complete. Over the next two weeks, my husband and his crew will spend hours, days even, in the combine cutting soybeans and grain sorghum. But yet, like the calves, harvest will be a disappointing venture. Crop prices keep falling while input costs remain unchanged. Profits are a thing of the past. Today’s goal is to simply break even and pay the bills. (Read more about the slumping farm economy HERE) In our part of the world, you can find farms that have been in a family for more than a century. Those 100 years have seen droughts, floods, interest rate booms and market busts. Farmers have and continue to thrive despite the adverse conditions and seemingly insurmountable odds. They do it for the love of the land and a hope of another generation returning to keep the family farm alive. So many aspects of farming – from the weather to crop prices to worldwide production – remain outside farmers’ control. They are at the mercy of variables that can make or break a crop, a year or an entire farm. Every year hardworking farm families are forced to close shop because they simply cannot make it all work. Watching equipment, land and cattle be sold off to neighbors and strangers alike is enough to break anyone’s spirit. Farming is hard but quitting is worse. Programs like crop insurance provide valuable and necessary tools to farmers to allow them some recovery from economic hardship. These are not handouts or props for wealthy landowners, they are life jackets that allow farmers, like us, to make it to the next harvest and the next paycheck. Farmers must provide the premiums for the insurance programs and often times the insurance check barely covers the next payment for seed or mortgage for the land. The last decade has been relatively prosperous for farmers across the U.S. But the good times have officially ended and many are predicting a series of bad years and continued low crop prices. For most business owners, this would be the catalyst to close shop or find new inventory. But farmers aren’t so lucky. There is no Columbus Day sale or “new special” to tease consumers and bring in new revenue. There is simply the hope of better days to come. Just like he did today, my farmer will wake up again tomorrow, put on his boots, head to the farm, tend to his cattle and watch his crops. It’s what he does; it’s what he was born to do. There is no Plan B when things don’t go as planned there is only the memory of past rough years and the good times that followed. My husband’s father and grandfather worked this land and one day he wants to watch his sons do the same. So he’ll keep on farming, keep watching his calves grow and putting in 80-hour weeks to pay the bills, put food on the table and hold onto the dream of another generation tending to this land.
Published by Katie Stockstill-Sawyer
I am a city girl that is learning about life on the farm. I met and married a fourth-generation farmer, Derek. I am now a farmer's wife and country girl. The move has required a few changes and a lot of learning. But I wouldn't change my new life and all of the little lessons and surprises it provides. View all posts by Katie Stockstill-Sawyer