My dad was a farmer. He farmed for over 30 years. It is a lowly occupation. Not much fame or glory involved but he always enjoyed his work and took pride in helping things grow. He has a belt buckle he wears all the time. It says “American Farmer.” Dad has a lot of grit and will tell you in a second what he thinks even if you may not want to hear it.
This grittiness, I think, helped him survive in an industry that has seen a steady decline in recent years. He helped instill in us kids a strong work ethic. We hear much about politicians, lawyers, doctors and all the other important members of our society but what about the hand that feeds us as a nation? To this dying breed, I give a salute.
I was raised in a small farming community in Louisiana. Agriculture was the main industry. Many of the families I knew and grew up with who were farmers have either lost their farms outright or been forced to sell and try to earn a living some other way. I am sure everyone has heard of farm-aid and the effort to help struggling families who are losing their homes and farms that have been in their families for generations. It is not just about another business going under. It is about losing a way of life.
Where did American farmers come from? Thomas Jefferson, our nation’s third president was a farmer. He categorized farmers as “America’s most valuable citizens.” Wow, do you still think we think this way? I think not. Most people never even give a second thought to where their food comes from or the farmers who toiled from daylight until dark in the fields, only to lose their crops to flooding or drought.
Public policy in America has encouraged industrialization of farming. There are now more large-scale farms corporately controlled than there are family run American farms. Politicians set prices for crops in the interest of multinational agribusiness corporations and not our own American farmers. The price farmers receive for their crop is going down, while our food prices are going up. Many cannot afford to pay heavy upkeep on farms and equipment and are going under.
This is not just talk. According to USDA between the years of 1961 and 2001, the number of U.S. farms fell from 3.82 million to 2.17 million. That is an average loss of 41,333 farms per year. No wonder the average age of an American farmer is 55. Children who grew up on farms are leaving and going on to bigger and better things.
What does this mean? Family farmers care for the land in an environmental friendly method more than any large corporation would. They diversify their crops and preserve the natural landscape.
A class of society is disappearing. Agricultural towns are closing businesses. People are moving away. I have witnessed this in my own hometown. So, while this may not cry out to you, as would a national epidemic or a natural disaster; it is a disaster on a much more subtle path. The legacy of the American farmer is slowly being stolen from us.
Making More Off of Less – The Plight of the American Farmer
YouTube by Andrew Reed
Image Credit: ArnoldReinhold via Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain