Living on a working farm is a 24/7 job. Most people only know about farm life from what they see in the movies and on TV. They show some of the hard work in the hot sun, but they always tie up the loose ends and show the family sitting down to dinner, sharing great holidays together or sitting out on the porch swing in the evening sipping ice tea. I am not saying that those moments do not happen, but they are far and few between.
Life on the farm is often romanticized, but the truth is that it is a lot of hard work, long hours with little profit and no employment benefits. I see my husband get up very early in the morning, make his own coffee and breakfast then leave for the day. Before he leaves he always has his day planned out in his head, what he needs to do and what he would like to do. However, it is a very rare day that he is able to follow his plans. The “farm” always has plans of its own. This time of the year is very busy trying to get the last of our crops planted, cutting raking, baling and hauling hay as well at harvesting our winter wheat. The focus of his day is getting all the above done.
But, the weather, livestock and equipment usually forces him to change course. It seems if he plans to plant crops or cut hay, it rains or it is to dry and he can’t get in the fields. If the weather is great so he can get in the fields, the tractors or combine brakes down and he has to spend two or three days working on the equipment. Then there are those days that the weather is great and all the equipment is running well but the livestock is out and he has to stop everything to chase cows or pigs back in their pastures and fix fence. To try to keep things on track he often works until midnight or later and is lucky to get a few hours of sleep before he has to start it all over again the next day.
Most of the time in lieu of lunch he grabs some fruit off of a nearby tree or will pick a few ears of corn out of the field. Dinner is usually after 9 pm but often closer to mid-night. Plans to get together with family or friends are regularly canceled or interrupted because of the workload or livestock. If it is 110 or -10 the work has to get done. Every season has its set of chores. In the spring the fields need to be worked and readied for planting corn, bulls need to be moved out of the pastures away from the cows, livestock has to be vaccinated and planting has to begin. Summer is the time to finish planting, mow hay, harvest winter wheat, plant beans, and put the bulls back in with the cows. Fall is harvest time for corn and beans, plant winter wheat and weaning calves. The winter is calving season, haying the livestock, breaking ice so the livestock can drink, mending fences and getting equipment ready for the spring.
Farmers take a lot of pride in their work, are self-motivated, hardworking and always have time to lend a helping hand. It is sad to say that looking to the future there is no “next” generation of farmers ready to set up and run the small family owned farms. It is hard to convince them to become a farmer when they have grown up watching their families work long hours, earning just enough money to keep the farm operating, with no health benefit, no paid vacations, holidays or sick time. There are no retirement or pension plans. It is exhilarating when there is enough money to buy a ten year old car to replace the 25 year old car you have been driving. It is easy to see why the next generation has no interest in farming. They watch as their friends work 9-5 jobs, where they are ensured a paycheck every Friday. They have the money to buy new vehicles, have weekends off, holidays with their families and vacations with their friends. They get to spend their days working in heated offices in the winter and air condition in the summer.
With big companies moving in and taking over and small businesses unable to compete, I truly believe that family owned farms will cease to exist in the next 25 years. Like so many other small businesses such as blacksmiths, shoe makers, Mom & Pop diners, independent gas stations, shade tree mechanics, family owned grocery stores, doctors that make house calls, quilt makers, seamstress, the milkman, handyman, clock and watch repair, lamplighters, icemen, typesetters, telegraph operators, newspaper boys, and newspapers for that fact family farms are part of the past. Newer, faster and bigger business are moving in and taking over. The world is always changing, sometimes for the better. At this rate in my lifetime, I believe that most the food that we buy will be imported from other countries and family farms will cease to exist.