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Farmers love their land and care for it as they would family

55 Years And Counting From The Tractor Seat

By Bill Whitman 

 Caring about every acre we’re responsible for is not optional. It gets harder and harder to do as our operations continue to increase in size. On the other hand, with the precision technology available we can look closely at production numbers of every acre under cultivation. 

So, we can deal with our acreage based on history and soil tests, etc., but what I want to talk about here is the affinity we have with the land. For me it began as a boy with the smelling of freshly plowed soil and the smell of harvested soybeans and corn. I don’t know why but I have trouble recalling the smell of winter wheat during harvest. Maybe because my clearest early memories of wheat harvest were in a Gleaner E III with a black fungus of some type that made me look like a coal miner by the end of the day. 

One thing that I have looked for all my life is the common characteristics of the farmers I admire. Each one looks at their land, pasture, timber and livestock with an eye of responsibility. Farmers and ranchers have always thought “out of the box” and looked for ways to improve their farms efficiency, water, erosion control, and equipment and livestock care. Good farmers leave no stone unturned searching for a better way. Environmentalists have ridiculed agriculture for destroying the earth when the truth is, agriculture has been using progressive ecological methods long before “environmentalists” picked up the cause. We do this because the only way that we can continue to answer the call to produce more with less is to protect and nurture every acre we’re responsible for. 

Those of us who were raised in church or have found our way to the pew, will recall that as a consequence of the original sin in Genesis, man was assigned the responsibility of toiling in the soil to produce food to eat, fighting weeds and thorns. I venture to guess that the reason we can’t seem to beat all the weeds once and for all is because of the consequence of sin born in Eden. 

For those of us who live on a farm, we experience an education every year that we deal with producing a living from our land. I don’t know why but until the 1980s it seemed like we could depend on average years. The weather pretty much followed the same pattern, crop pricing and inputs were steady and then the wind changed and the government decided that a change was needed on the family farm. Dairies were put out of business right and left. Interest rates blew up and farms were buried in debt. Unreal debt. Now, I don’t know what an average year looks like weatherwise, and inputs and equipment are beyond my comprehension. And yet, we keep on keepin’ on. 

I still remember Willie Nelson and other country western musicians taking up the cause of the family farm and ranch. They helped put the crisis on the front page of every major newspaper in the country. Interestingly enough, the deeper in debt you were the better chance of surviving you had. Deep in debt, the only choice the lenders had of limiting their losses was to keep you in business. What I saw was a change in the attitude of agriculture. The youth were no longer willing to live worse than people working in town. Their reasoning was that we work harder and carry more responsibility than a factory worker and yet we’re constantly having to tell our families that we could not afford things (like a family vacation) that city folk took for granted. I have a feeling that we are nearing that same precipice again. 

Regardless, the true farmer and rancher will continue to love the land and take care of it as a member of the family. After all, there is so much expected of the land in the future and mankind’s future is defined by the success of it.