Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day 16: The Romantic vs. Reality

This blog post was inspired by Dan Seals and Marie Osmond's "Meet Me In Montana."

Many people outside if the Ag industry look at what we all do differently than we do. (Go figure).  They see beautiful sunrises, sunsets, watching crops grow, and cute baby pigs.  It's a little more in depth than that.  The movies "Son-In-Law," "Charlotte's Web," and "Babe," aren't exactly perfect examples of farm living (or working for some of us).  

Last night I watched the movie, "Bitter Harvest," (1981).  It gave a different view of things.  Rather than the normal frolicking animals, and happiness, it peers into the reality of what producers go through every day.  What do I mean (for those who have seen it and are thinking, what do you do every day)?  This shows more reality behind what can happen.  This movie portrays a young farmer who returned after his father's passing, to the family dairy farm with a wife and young baby.  Things have been going well for the farmer (Ricky from "Happy Days" if I'm not mistaken).  His milk volume has been increasing steadily until suddenly, his cows start having calves that won't eat, and then milk volume decreases significantly.  This young man goes on a mission to figure out what happened.  I won't ruin the end, but it is a movie recount of a true Michigan dairy industry issue from I believe the 1970s.  

What people don't see in these movies is how hard producers have to work every day.  There is a movie coming out this spring called, I believe, "Farmland - The Movie," which ventures out to show those less aware of what they deal with, the truth.  Many fail to realize that when they can go to work, whether hourly or salary, their pay is relatively fixed and dependable.  Farmers and producers live every day with the risk of losing it all (or whatever isn't paid off).  Consider hog producers the last few years, considering that costs were above expenses what seems like more times than not.  If things go wrong, or they cannot find the funds to continue feeding those animals, then they may lose the farm.  The 1980s is a perfect example of where there were many farmers forced out of the market.  This was a result of a bubble bursting on land prices as well as a drop in the value of commodities.  In the 1990's, when pork prices plummetted, this again was a time where producers were asking, "Can we weather this, or do we get out?"  This is a daily battle for farmers and ranchers.  Many of them have switched to smartphones with the rest of the world, but as the 'meme' I saw on facebook the other day said, "If the only apps you have on your smartphone are weather, commodities, and weed identifiers, you may be a farmer."  What does this do for them?  It's realtime data to help them telll what prices are doing, so they can keep a closer eye on whether it's time to sell a few thousand more bushels of beans or not.  You can't plan markets.  They will be what they will be.  You can speculate, but that's still counting your eggs before they hatch.  Farming's a tough battle every day.  In one day you could lose it all.  You just never know.  This is one of the underlying reasons I believe that most of the farmers I know are very religious people.  This just goes to show you that (without discussing manure, mud, rain, snow, or breakdowns) the realities in farming are slightly different from the romantic view of farming you often get in movies.  It's like the line about how working in the real world isn't like the TV show, Friends - people have to actually leave the coffee shop and go to work. 

I do have to say, there is nothing better than a sunrise or sunset over the farm, or the look of a field with a good stand that you planted, hearing that things you got the opportunity to impact, were successful.  These are all drivers behind why I love being home and visiting the farm.  There's always news - good, bad, or indifferent.  At some point in life, most people have that "Call to Jesus" moment, where they realize, "Hey, this is what I want to do the rest of my life."  Getting to watch life happen every day at the farm is what called me to want to make it a part of my future.  When you've been on your feet all day, soaked with sweat, and working your butt off, but leave with a smile on your face, anticipating when you get to come back tomorrow, you know that it means something special to you.


All photos came from either a day at work on the farm, or a trip to check on how things were going after I had been away.  The bottom photo is of the double crop beans I planted last year (they yielded very well considering the drought - really proud of this picture, even though it just looks like a grain truck to you).

Thanks for reading!  

Linking up with Holly's 30 Day Challenenge here.  

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