The latest statistics show that less then 2% of the population is directly involved in production agriculture. It is a function of an increasing overall population and a limited amount of farm ground. Technology is able to keep up, so that less bodies are required to produce an ever increasing cornucopia of food and fiber.
But on a personal level the story isn’t quite so simple.
Tom was raised on a dairy farm in the Great Lake region; 300 cows, 900 acres. His grandfather established the farm and passed it down to Tom’s father.
Tom’s childhood memories are of work. By the time his mother came in to wake him and his two brothers for school, she and dad had already finished the morning milking. By nine years of age he was already part of the family farm. Until he was old enough to milk he pushed cows to the barn, fed calves, forked silage and did whatever kids do, which was plenty.
High school activities like dances, meetings, sports and girls all hinged around milking time and chores. He didn’t need to work at McDonalds during summer vacation. If he wanted work there was plenty at home.
He went to college. His two brothers left to work elsewhere. Now Tom is 33, married with kids and has a good job at the local Coop. Dad has been using hired labor since the boys left, but Dad is getting older.
Tom makes his daily rounds, does his job and is active in the community. But hovering over everything he does is that niggling feeling that maybe he should go back to the farm.
Afterall, it is a showplace. The results of uncountable man hours and love and sweat poured into it by two generations preceding him. It made him the good man that he is. And he could run it well if he chose to. Guilt rides him like the winter fog off Lake Michigan.
In my opinion Tom need not feel guilty. Nor should his parents place that onus upon the shoulders of their inheritors. Each person had their own calling.
But I would suggest that there are many with no inheritance who would leap at the chance to own a farm. Immigrants, hired men, college grads, feed salesmen and pencil pushin’ farm boys whose dream is to work their own place.
It would be ideal if both the parents and their kids could cooperate to actively seek out those potential pardners and integrate them into the operation. With the idea they could eventually buy it out. It would be to everyone’s relief and good for the continuing productivity of the farm. In other words, take’m into the family.
To farm you must love the land. That’s the only reason I can think of that explains why farming is an occupation where labor is never counted as a business expense.