The person behind the farmer

So often in our country, we criticize agriculture for one thing or another. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, very few people know a farmer who can support or refute those criticisms. I’ve always thought one of the coolest things about the agriculture ‘movement’, so to speak, online–whether it’s through a blog, Twitter, Facebook, or something else–is that everyone who interacts with a farmer has the ability to see that there is a real person there. Yes, you can learn about agriculture and statistics and production methods–that’s all extremely valuable information, don’t get me wrong. But above and beyond that, I think it’s really cool to find out the person behind the job. Knowing a farmer has a family, likes to golf, reads in their spare time, supports a local 4-H club, has business struggles, etc.–all of those stories are just as important as the information gained, in my opinion, because they help us realize that farmers –even though we may not know one personally–are a lot like us.

The Progressive Farmer magazine recently gave me the opportunity to take a look at one of their upcoming articles that seeks to accomplish this exact goal–introduce real farmers with real stories (and, yes, those stories sometimes include things not related to a tractor or a barn). The article highlights three farming families all trying to get by, no matter what struggles face them. Along the way, Progressive Farmer attempts to debunk some agricultural myths and share ways that these farmers are working to leave their operations better for future generations.

Clay Rightmer and his business partner assess the ranch. Photo courtesy of The Progressive Farmer.

Progressive Farmer interviewed farm families from different parts of the country–the Becker family from Minnesota, the Rightmer family from Texas, and the Hays family from Missouri. Now, I could go into telling you everything about these families, but I figure you can read about the details for yourself when the magazine hits your mailbox around August 3rd (yes, you only have to wait a week!). Instead, I want to touch on some of the things that stuck out to me as the most interesting.

1. Farming is multi-generational.

All three of the families featured in the article were working with at least two generations, if not three. Parents, children, and their children–some immediate family and some in-laws– are all working together to make their farming operations as successful as possible.

I talk to many of my friends who are facing a future of taking over the farm. It is both an extremely rewarding and heart-wrenching experience for all involved. Oftentimes children are looking forward to making the farm even better and parents want to see their children continue the legacy of farming. However, it is also a time of change and a shift in responsibility that can prove difficult for everyone. What I loved about this article is that there are families who can make that transition work, recognizing that it will be a challenge, but in the end a source of family pride.

2. Wives rock.

Now, I’m sure when many of you picture a farmer you picture a man. Don’t worry, I do too. However, I can’t tell you how wrong that stereotype is.

Clay Rightmer and his wife, Jennifer, discuss the day's schedule before heading their seperate ways. Photo courtesy of The Progressive Farmer.

Today, wives and other women  (aunts, sisters, daughters) play just as big of a role in making the farm run smoothly as the men do. They are the keepers of the schedule, the driver of the children, the maker of the meals, and often help with on-farm day-to-day activities.

Off-farm, women are also playing a huge role in making sure that the message of agriculture is communicated. Julie Becker travels regionally to educate consumers as a part of the National Pork Board Operation Main Street program.

We’ve been [trying to do] the right things all along, but now it is more important than ever to get out message out to main street consumers,” –Julie Becker

3. Sports–The Fun That Holds Us Together!

Okay, I know this has nothing to do with farming, but I found this really interesting–farm families love sports! Now, I won’t say this is a stereotype or anything, but the families in this article and many of the farm families I know definitely fit this bill.

Both the Becker family and the Rightmer’s love baseball and the Hays kids run track, play softball and basketball, and make a little time for some flag-football in the snow! No matter what our background, I love the fact that sports are one thing that really tie us together as Americans–it’s a love of fun, competition, and camaraderie.

Overall, I would say that this is a great article by Progressive Farmer and really meets several goals–tell about different production methods and farm types, try to dispel some agricultural myths, and tell the story of the person behind the farmer. Thank you, Progressive Farmer, for allowing me to have a sneak peak and make sure you pick up your copy in early August to read this great story and check out some fun pictures of all the families!

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