Open letter

Dear friends and friends I haven’t yet met,

My letter is for all to read and with any luck, for the uninitiated, to heed; uninitiated in this case means people who do not work day-to-day in production agriculture. Just as I would not attempt to understand the intricate work a sculptor does, I would still be interested in gaining insight. And that is what I would like to impart to readers.

Those who say, “How nice that you can live on a farm/ranch. I would love to live in the country like that,” are correct, as far as that goes. Yet they have not a clue how difficult the work is. It’s as though they think farmers toss a little hay to their cows and spend the rest of the day in the shade on the porch.

Self-starter is a good adjective to describe farmers. Manager is another one. That is the part of farming that looks at the overall picture for the day/week/season and prioritizes and plans what should be done next. When the owner/operator/manager is the same person, there is no one else to tell them what needs done. “Minding the store” was a phrase my grandma used. It means to pay attention to what is important and do the work. Among their other attributes, ag producers are scientists, agronomists, biologists, philosophers, and planners. They are generally philanthropic as we’ve seen whenever there has been a crisis for other agriculture producers. Pastures destroyed by fire? Truckloads of donated hay, fence posts and wire are on the way.

Many occupations consist of long, physically difficult days and for that I do not single out farmers and ranchers, however I can only speak from experience about the latter two. Agriculture faces daily challenges over which producers have no control — weather and commodity prices. These are facts. We plan what we will do the following day but in reality, weather makes the call. Often, the changes are minor yet they can throw off several hours of planned work. We know that when conditions are right, the work must be done. Even churches see fewer farmers during planting, harvesting, and calving seasons.

The “Dakota Farmer Magazine” used to publish a column titled “The Song of the Lazy Farmer,” wherein we read about a farmer who procrastinated and just never got around to getting his work done. If he were working the land today, he wouldn’t last long. Friends may have the idea that you are self-employed so during the summer, take the day off, meet friends for early evening picnics.

It’s not that easy. And as most self-employed people know, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Everyone knows the song about the ‘lazy, hazy days of summer;’ some of our days may be hazy but they are never lazy. Summer is a season in which the work put in accounts for money earned for a crop.

In other words, you reap what you sow.

Peggy Sanders


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