1. Talk with other farmers
In the farming world, this is a joke almost as old as the “cops like donuts” line. Where will you find a farmer when he’s not farming? At the coffee shop, talking to other farmers. The thing is, it isn’t always the coffee shop (sometimes it’s the USDA Agency office or the local machinery dealer) and it isn’t really about just talking.
If you’re a mom and you’re struggling with your newly turned three-year-old, you head straight to your mom friends with older kids to figure out what to do. Farmers do the same thing. They talk about yields, soils, weather, machinery, farm programs and more – just to get advice on what others in their area are doing. It takes a community to raise a child AND a few thousand plants – so I hear.
2. Hang out with their kids/grandkids
One of the greatest benefits of farming is the flexibility. You work for yourself and you set your own hours. So when you want to take off at 3 to see your kid’s baseball game, it’s no big deal.
All the farmers I know are family men and they set quite a store on the kids they are raising to be the next generation. They gladly set aside time to watch band concerts, take the family to the county fair, or just play ball in the backyard … unless it’s planting or harvest season when the schedule flexibility just isn’t there.
3. Read/learn more about farming
Agriculture is a huge and varied industry that is constantly changing. From farm programs and conservation programs that change every few years to new recommendations for on farm practices to preserve soil and water, there is a never-ending stream of stuff that farmers need to read up on.
I’m a parent and I know that I’m always interested in the latest research on immunizations or discipline techniques or college applications – I’m likely to read about those things if I find myself with ten extra minutes. Farmers are the same way; always trying to learn about the changes and the latest research in their industry that could benefit their farm as a whole.
4. Try to figure out the latest technology
I know the image that so many people have in their brains about farmers. Farmers are uneducated, a little backwards, use poor grammar, and don’t understand the way the world works. While some of that is true – my grandpa has VERY poor grammar in fact! – farmers are actually really smart guys! They have to know and understand chemistry, business, marketing, biology, medicine, meteorology, and political science to actually make their farm turn a profit every year.
And now they have to understand basic computer science. Today’s tractors, combines, planters and sprayers are equipped with technology that locates certain sections of the farm and individualizes their treatment for exactly what they need. If a farmer has one square foot of property that needs more fertilizer than the others (as indicated by a soil test) the equipment can find that square foot and apply the proper amount of fertilizer.
With all this complex machinery comes a learning curve to understanding and using it! Its hard for me to get used to the iPhone 5S … sometimes, I’m not sure how they do it!
5. Attempt to predict the weather
For every farmer, their entire yearly salary rests on the weather. One hail storm can destroy them. One wind can devour a crop. One more rain can sometimes make this the best year they’ve ever had. And one more cool day can make pollination – and thus ear size – that much better.
Because they have everything riding on the weather, they are constantly watching it. When is the next rain coming? What will the temperature be for the next week? When is the first frost? These are things a farmer worries about. Daily. And resigns himself to every minute. Because if there’s one thing you can’t change, it’s the weather.