photo credit: AFBF Photo/Morgan Walker
A frozen mustache, aching fingers and cold toes. Up before dawn and in the field long after the stars come out. These are what common workdays look like for me, a North Dakota farmer. Do farmers do what they do for recognition and accolades? Absolutely not. In fact, many of their most amazing feats are achieved in the dead of night or early in the morning with a blue heeler dog and God as their only witnesses. Farming and ranching is much more than driving a tractor or riding horses through a pasture. Farmers and ranchers experience many highs and lows throughout the course of the production cycle. It’s not an easy job, and it takes a special kind to succeed.
Below are a few things farmers and ranchers would like you to know.
They are Family Oriented
It isn’t rare for a farm to have three generations working together. If you asked what is a major part of why farmers do what they do, they would tell you it’s the opportunity to pass down a business, a way of life and a legacy to younger generations. According to the USDA’s Census of Agriculture, 98% of all farms in the United States are family farms. Some of those are first-generation families starting up their own farms and ranches.
They Have Unrelenting Optimism
A metal sign hangs above the Sand Dune Saloon in McLeod, North Dakota, that reads, “Ranching isn’t about what we’ve done today, it’s about what we’re doing tomorrow.” Farmers have faith. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or even five minutes ago, the work never stops. Mother Nature pays no mind to production goals or plans. Whether it’s through a blizzard, flood, or drought – a farmer always finds a way to get it done.
Farmers are constantly learning and adapting their businesses.
They Practice Caring Stewardship
Farmers are grateful for the resources under their feet and understand that they are limited. You’ll notice their willingness to go the extra mile by implementing practices that help ensure profitability and sustainability for many years into the future. Farmers and ranchers use new technology paired with time-tested traditional practices to generate greater profit and added benefits to the land.
They Benefit from (In)Formal Education
Farming is still stereotyped as an uneducated profession. But many farmers have earned post-secondary degrees – from associates to PhDs. Many lessons in life cannot be learned in a classroom. Farmers are constantly learning and adapting their businesses to continue to feed, not only their families, but the world. No matter if a degree hangs in the home office or not, farmers are some of the smartest people anyone would have the privilege to know. And that’s no bull.
They Wear Many Hats
I am not just talking about the free caps from seed salesmen or nutrition reps. When a farmer has an overheating grain truck and a frozen water tank, it means they are called to be a mechanic and plumber all before breakfast! They are an economist, meteorologist, scientist, conservationist, welder, fence-builder and mechanical engineer. In most rural settings, there is no one else to do these tasks, forcing farmers to specialize in a little bit of everything. Between livestock and Mother Nature, how the day starts out is rarely how it ends – it’s all in a day’s work for a farmer and rancher.
They are Globally Informed
In today’s political climate, what happens in western Europe and Asia absolutely impacts farmers and ranchers. They are more informed and market savvy than ever. With rising input costs and shrinking global market availability, local producers are finding ways to harvest, sell and feed locally produced grain and meat products to increase their operations’ profitability and lower costs to consumers. Farmers are out of this world!
They are Formidable
Farmers are strong, enduring and deserving of respect. The extreme winter storms, the sweltering summer heat and everything in-between does not faze them. Abrupt changes in weather or economic impacts are no match for a persevering farmer when it comes to making a well-fought-for living.
So now you know a little more about the grit and grace of farmers, leaders and champions of agriculture.
William Ogdahl and his wife, Abigail, are first-generation farmers in North Dakota. They serve on North Dakota Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee.