Saturday, May 03, 2008

Some Quotes for The Weekend

A busy week, followed by a busy weekend now, and a busy week coming up means a short blog posts. I just thought I would throw out a couple of quotes that I have heard recently and a few that I came across this week while doing some research. Living in the heart of Iowa means that I live in the heart of farm land so I am surrounded by friends, family, and neighbors who are farmers or are closely related to farmers. With that being said here are a few things that I have heard lately:

Friend - "You getting into farming?" Me - "Yep." Friend - "I've got some advice for you then ... DON'T!"

"You aren't a farmer, farmers have lots of land, combines, huge tractors, and all that kind of stuff." (Okay, this may be partly true ... I'm more pastor than farmer)

"Do you know that there isn't any money if farming? Remember the late 70's and early 80's"

"It's not natural to only feed cattle grass."

"You don't give your cows corn ... what are you, one of those organic freaks?"

I could go on and on with this sort of stuff, but I know many of you have heard the same lines before. This kind of stuff just roles off of me like rain on the roof and I'm even beginning to find it somewhat funny. It is like the people that always come up to us and say, "Wow, your kid is good now, but just wait a year." They have been saying that for four years and so far their proclamations have not come to fruition. Remember, things don't have to be the way they are for everyone else!

Here are some encouraging quotes to leave you with:

"Trade increases the wealth and glory of a country; but its real strength and stamina are to be looked for among the cultivators of the land." -William Pitt

"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares." -George Washington

"When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization." -Daniel Webster

"I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural." -Thomas Jefferson


Yeoman said...

This is a great post.

I've heard all of these comments myself, many times.

I'll come back and post further (I've got to go out and feed some cows, darn it) but the "money" one is particularly aggravating.

There's not huge wads of money in most stuff, contrary to what people think. I'm also a lawyer, and guess what, you don't necessarily get rich doing that either (which fortunately I had not planned on).

But the ultimate irony of the money comment is that as a farmer, you get to do what you love. Isn't that worth more than money. If you have a lot of money you have, well, money.

I see that a lot in my line of work. People get a lot of money, and then they have money. Once they have money, they feel they need more money, as the happiness train still hasn't come in.

I'm fairly convinced that people would to the most miserable things for their whole lives if it paid a lot of money. Yes, they'd have money, but they'd be miserable. Wait, that does describe many people.

On the Thomas Jefferson quote, note also that Jefferson felt that at the point most people in a republic lived off farms they owned, the republic was in serious trouble. Cities, he felt, bred idleness and vice, and populations that felt that the government backed by farmers had to carry them.

I dare say he was right.

JRG said...

No money in agriculture !?! I think right now is one of the greatest times to be in agriculture. As long as you're producing food and not commodities. The only agricultural doom is to keep doing what everyone else is doing.

We fed the last hay we're going to feed this morning and will move 229replacement heifers and 160 pairs onto the pivots tomorrow. Hopefully we'll get water running the first of the week. With three nights this week still dropping to 24F, it was too cold to turn on the water. We did start the flood water yesterday.

The first cycle through we'll graze in just five divisions, 2 days on each, and then start over with ten divisions for the second cycle. If we can stay above freezing and get the water flowing, we'll be alright.

Yeoman, hope you can quit feeding soon.

Rich said...

Regardless of the kind of small business you were planning to start, I think you would hear the same types of negative comments.

Just imagine what kind of comments would be hurled at somebody in 1870 Norway that told his friends and neighbors that he was going to emigrate to the Great Plains of the United States. Now, just imagine what his (or her) response would of (or should of) been to those that didn't have the courage to leave their servitude in Europe and find more freedom in the open spaces of America.

The United States wasn't built by those that belittle and discourage the ones that have the courage to take risks, ignore the advice of those that refuse to risk anything.

Yeoman said...

"Regardless of the kind of small business you were planning to start, I think you would hear the same types of negative comments."

Oh, I dare say that you'll get a lot more negative comments starting up a farm than you will get with about anything else.

Truth be known, Americans have a love hat relationship with farmers. Most Americans like to imagine an idealized farming class. Something like out of a Currier and Ives print. However, they also think that farmers are hicks, something like out of the Beverly Hillbillies. And they vaguely sense that the promise of modern life is basically a charade, but one they do not want to part with.

So, when somebody they know, if that person is not on the farm to start with, decides to try, they discourage it. It's a threat to their view of American life. Farming is okay for some rustic hick, they imagine, but not for people "like me".

Ranching, which is what I'm trying to do, is okay as long as you are not perceived as the one who does the work. You can own a ranch, in the popular mind and be a "rancher", but you can't work it. In actuality, if you own and don't work it, you're a parasite, but that's another topic.

These observations, by the way, apply to agricultural families themselves. I've known more than one that actively discouraged their young folks from going into agriculture. When it doesn't work, they're a little disappointed. When the discouragement does work, they're happy and the child is bitter in the end. I know one such person, for example, who has entered the same profession as I have for my urban job (pretty common around here), and who is desperately trying to convince himself that he's happy. In the process, he's gone from "hating" agriculture, to hating just about everything else, he's so bitter.

Rich said...

The fact that the general public might think less of the farmer and rancher is partly the fault of farmers/ranchers and the farm lobby, the image has been created that government handouts are the only way for agriculture to be able to still exist. Every legislative session, farm lobbyists and politicians pandering for votes declare that agriculture cannot continue without increased farm payments. Why do you think the public has the mistaken impression that farmers are farming at a loss just so they can get a farm subsidy check? Who would advise anybody to pursue a career that they thought could only exist due to government subsidies?

Ethan Book said...

Great thoughts everyone! The quotes that I had heard recently aren't really that discouraging to me, but in one sense the historical quotes are discouraging. I find them encouraging because of the importance of agriculture that they convey, but slightly saddening because we have strayed so far from those ideals.

Steven said...

Rich are you talking about all kinds of farms? As I understand it, most row crop farms couldn't make it without the farm program. An uncle told me of an old man that didn't want to rely on the government and tried farming his corn, soybeans, and wheat without any government involvement or help and he found out very quickly that he couldn't do it.
And, on the movie King Corn they figured that they lost $19 dollars on 1 acre of corn in '05 before their final government subsidies.

Yeoman said...

The fact that the general public might think less of the farmer and rancher is partly the fault of farmers/ranchers and the farm lobby, the image has been created that government handouts are the only way for agriculture to be able to still exist."

I agree with your observation.

Ironically, however, the same analysis applies to urban life and many other industries, people just do not recognize it.

Highway transportation in the US is completely subsidized, for example. No US highway is supported entirely by tolls, and most are supported entirely by tax dollars. Over the road trucking is taxed at a rate below it's destruction to the roads, so it's in essence subsidized. Goodness knows why.

Disaster relief effectively subsidizes people's decisions to live in certain areas. All Americans are taxed, as a practical matter, to aid and rebuild in these regions, so that the people who live there can endure the risk.

And so on.

Note, I'm not arguing that disaster relief is bad. But what I find so amazing is that nearly ever American enjoys some subsidization in this day and age. They just think it's a "right". The present Federal administration, for example, has taken a lot of heat over being "slow to react" to Hurricane Katrina. I'd guess that if the hurricane had happened in the early 20th Century, rather than the early 21st Century, there would have been no Federal action at all. Now we expect and demand it.

Again, a disaster is a disaster, but we should all be awake as to the extent we benefit from subsidies of one kind or another.

Rich said...

"...An uncle told me of an old man that didn't want to rely on the government and tried farming his corn, soybeans, and wheat without any government involvement or help and he found out very quickly that he couldn't do it..."

That might be true, but it shouldn't have to be that way and it kind of proves my point by creating the impression that without handouts most farms would cease to operate (because most people would extrapolate this one example and apply it to all farms). If an individual opts out of the farm subsidy programs, the fact that other farmers still participate means that the lower prices will continue to be paid for farm crops due to the effect of the subsidies. If farm subsidy programs were completely eliminated, market forces would hopefully start to "correct" the price structure.

But politicians don't want market forces to play a role in determining the prices paid for agricultural products, witness the hysteria over the supposed shift in corn production to fill the demand for ethanol production. Politicians want cheap food for the masses and control of the level of production.

From what I understand, MiG began to be much more common in New Zealand after government subsidies were eliminated in the '80's. Farm subsidies are not required for farms to be profitable, without subsidies you would be forced to either adapt to the new system or go out of business.

Regardless of your opinion of farm subsidies, they still cause the public to look at farmers (rightly or wrongly) as only interested in government handouts.

Jena said...

I know I'm a bit late here but I just checked in and had to throw out another quote for you. I'm interning with a large animal Vet who tends to repeat himself out of forgetfulness. Several times now when I've been talking about our farm he will tip his hat back, look me in the eye, and say, "I remember back when I was knee high to a grasshopper my Dad always used to say that the bigger the farm you had the bigger job in town you had to have to support it." This is a little discouraging although I am able to laugh it off. The funny part is that my fiance and I both have much better than average jobs for our area and our friends tease us that we must be rich since we bought this big farm. I think most of you know how much of that is true!

Steven said...

I agree. Farmers could make it without the subsidies if they were not there, but as long as they are there, they drive prices down. Unless you are doing organic or some value added deal.

Christy said...

I hear similar comments about homeschooling all the time. None of them have come true yet. My kid does have friends, we do get along great, and he isn't an idiot.

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