In my 19 years of working for a farmers cooperative, I’ve seen all types of farmers and ranchers.
There have always been “weekend farmers” for whom farming is a lark, a small supplemental income or a tax write-off. Other herdsmen and planters have farming in their DNA. They yearn to be able to maintain farms handed down through generations and support their families SOLELY through the sweat of their brow in the croplands, pastures, orchards and dairy barns.
In a conglomerate-dominated business, things look less promising for “the little guys” all the time.
According to a February 26 Wall Street Journal article (“To Stay on the Land, Farmers Take Extra Jobs”), rising costs and depressed commodity prices are driving farmers to take desperate measures. On average, 82 percent of U.S. farm household income is expected to come from off-farm work this year, up from 53 percent in 1960.
Yes, farmers are reluctantly working extra jobs (on neighboring farms, in factories, etc.), missing their children’s extracurricular activities and skipping weekend fishing trips in order to stay ahead of their creditors. Their work ethic is to be commended, but not every farmer is suited for every side job. Here are 10 examples of potential mismatches:
1. Valet parking attendant. (“I know there’s no mud between the restaurant entrance and the parking lot, but mud just always seems to find me. Or IS that mud? Eww…no tip required, mister.”)
2. Daycare worker. (“You say, ‘photo I.D. for all children.’ I say, ‘Branding iron’s ready.’ Tomato, tomahto.”)
3. Pollster. (“Do you think more pig slopping and less teenage backtalk would Make America Great Again?”)
4. Football referee. (“7 p.m.??? Penalty for not getting up before the rooster crows to play this game!”)
5. Associate minister. (“Yeah, yeah, Judy needs prayers for a lung transplant. But let’s talk RAIN first!”)
6. Undertaker. (“I just automatically sprayed herbicide on all those wreaths. Do you think my John Deere can outrun the next of kin?”)
7. Fast food clerk. (“Of COURSE you want fries with that! I don’t care what the world markets say — my potatoes are worth their weight in gold. And don’t try that ‘lactose intolerant’ jazz with a dairyman who has 75 Holsteins to feed.”)
8. Housecleaner. (“Well, MAYBE your rambunctious twins are responsible for the laundry being strewn in the floor; but I’m bringing my shotgun and my Jaws of Death trap just in case it’s VARMINTS.”)
9. Male escort. (“Perhaps I could interest you in a lecture about the benefits of artificial breeding?”)
10. Archaeologist. Okay, that one’s sort of cool — unless they find a cave drawing that taunts, “Bet ‘primitive hunter-gatherer’ doesn’t look so bad now, Mr. Crop Planter!”
Let’s brainstorm better ways to solve farmers’ persistent financial stress. It’s not good to entrust our food supply to someone who gets three hours of sleep. It used to be “Contented milk from contented cows.” Now it’s “Confused milk from cows that get mistaken for former schoolteachers.”
And the dangers aren’t just in the food supply. You know the bumper sticker that admonishes, “Don’t cuss a farmer with your mouth full”? In the future the message may be, “No, don’t cuss him with your mouth full. Spit the food out and yell, “Wake up, you commuting &*^%$ You’re drifting into the wrong lane and about to hit my submarine! AIIIIEEEEE!”
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.