What Is A Farmer?

September 14, 2008 07:00 PM
 

"Nobody else is so far from the telephone or so close to God,” says the author in her humorous answer
 
By Doris T. West
 
Farmers are found in fields—plowing up, seeding down, rotating from, planting to, fertilizing with, spraying for and harvesting if. Wives help them, little boys follow them, the Agriculture Department confuses them, city relatives visit them, salesmen detain them, meals wait for them, weather can delay them, but it takes Heaven to stop them.

When your car stalls along the way, a farmer is a considerate, courteous, inexpensive road service. When a farmer's wife suggests he buy a new suit, he can quote from memory every expense involved in operating the farm last year plus the added expenses he is certain will crop up this year. Or else he assumes the role of the indignant shopper, impressing upon everyone within earshot the pounds of pork he must produce in order to pay for a suit at today's prices.

A farmer is a paradox—he is an overalled executive with his home his office; a scientist using fertilizer attachments; a purchasing agent in an old straw hat; a personnel director with grease under his fingernails; a dietitian with a passion for alfalfa, aminos and antibiotics; a production expert faced with a surplus, and a manager battling a price-cost squeeze. He manages more capital than most of the businessmen in town.

He likes sunshine, good food, State Fairs, dinner at noon, auctions, his neighbors, Saturday nights in town, his shirt collar unbuttoned and, above all, a good soaking rain in August.

He is not much for droughts, ditches, throughways, experts, weeds, the eight-hour day, helping with housework, or grasshoppers.

Nobody else is so far from the telephone or so close to God. Nobody else gets so much satisfaction out of modern plumbing, good weather and homemade ice cream. Nobody else has in his pockets at one time a three-bladed knife, checkbook, a billfold, a pair of pliers and a combination memo book and general farm guide.

Nobody else can remove these things from his pockets and, on washday, have overlooked: 5 "steeples” one cotter key, a rusty spike, 3 grains of corn, the stub end of a lead pencil, a square tap, a $4.98 pocket watch and a cupful of chaff in each trouser cuff.

A farmer is both Faith and Fatalist—he must have faith to continually meet the challenges of his capacities amid an ever-present possibility that an act of God (a late spring, an early frost, tornado, flood, drought) can bring his business to a standstill. You can reduce his acreage but you can't restrain his ambition.

Might as well put up with him—he is your friend, your competitor, your customer, your source of food, fibre, and self-reliant young citizens to help replenish your cities. He is your countryman—a denim-dressed, business-wise, fast-growing statesman of stature. And when he comes in at noon having spent the energy of his hopes and dreams, he can be recharged anew with the magic words: "The market's up!”
 

 
Farm Journal, February 1962

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