Why I Don’t Promote ‘Thank A Farmer’ Rhetoric
Whoa there….I’m not speaking out against farmers (don’t light those torches yet!). Quite the opposite. I am a proponent that we should give the farmers the respect that they deserve.
There are several “movements” or “campaigns” out there touting some variation of the message that we should be indebted to farmers. The gist is that without them we could not survive. I am not here to argue this point.
However, there are reasons that I don’t think these are the right messages to be sending.
First and foremost, the notion that we need to thank farmers perpetuates an old idea that farmers are somehow sacrificing their “real” career potential to provide a social service. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Modern American Farmers are entrepreneurs, they are risk-takers. They are often well educated and highly intelligent. Want examples? Listen this podcast episode, or this one or this one or this one or this one. I could list several more but I hope you’re getting the idea.
“But Tim — many farmers DO receive government assistance. Doesn’t that imply they are offering a service to the public good?”
True. But so does the energy industry. I don’t go around looking for those guys to say “thank you” to either.
The idea that we need to “thank a farmer” also feeds the FALSE narrative that a farmer is somehow a victim to his or her circumstances. I’m sure you’ve heard people say that “big bad agribusiness forces farmers to buy seed rather than save it” and other such claims.
Those of us in agriculture know the real story. The truth is that a farmer, whether large or small, is running a BUSINESS and is going to make decisions that benefit the profitability and long term sustainability of that business. Some of those decisions will be right and others wrong, just like any business.
If a farmer was just some poor guy relegated to “middle America” and forced to grow crops then I’d say gratitude might be in order. But those aren’t the farmers I know. The farmers I know deserve the same respect and admiration that we pay to other entrepreneurs and business people.
So if the message is not “Thank/Hug/Love a Farmer” then what should it be?
I think it should be “Agriculture exists to solve complex problems related to our most basic needs — food, shelter, and clothing”. Also, “Farming is a business. A very dynamic and progressive business”.
Or the cynic in me wants to say “You should try farming. You saw two documentaries so you clearly have it all figured out”. Ok maybe not that one.
I love agriculture as much as anyone I know. I don’t like to see it belittled. The intentions of these messages are pure, but I think they miss the mark.