15 Mar 2009

Real Farmers

Real farmers care about profit -- not yield.

It was a mistake to allow ag economists and politicians to push them into high yield/cheap food practices.

Real farmers don't need subsidies to grow crops.

They know what to grow and where to sell it.

Real farmers take care of their communities.

They don't take subsidies to grow cheap food that will ease the bills of rich people and raise the taxes of poor people.

Real farmers are careful with resources.

They do not ruin their top soil, over-fertilize, or overdraft their aquifer.

Real farmers are dynastic.

Their ancestors are farmers and their children are farmers, because farming goes with the land and the people go with the land.

Real farmers invest long-term.

The shortest decision is resolved with the harvest. The longest decision is resolved over 20-30 years.

Bottom Line: Real farmers are sustainable stewards of the earth, the water, and the food that we all eat.


  1. Reminds me of the Native American quote (?), "The land does not belong to the people; the people belong to the land."

    Wonder if we can say the same for water?

  2. I think you may get your Bay Area resident card revoked for saying something positive about growers.

    But thanks anyway.

    Too often, the perception is that 1)we lay awake at night thinking up ways to despoil the enviroment; or 2), we're too dumb to realize that we are poisoning our homes and families.

  3. Excellent insights. Agriculture is a humbling calling, like medicine. Some people respond to that with anger, demands on others, self-pity; they fail. Others, not masochists, respond like a Zen student with gratitude for their increased knowledge; they succeed.

  4. I like all that.

    There are indeed many "real farmers" out there.

    Some will do the right thing, even if it costs them money. All will do the right thing, if it is cost-neutral or to their advantage.

    Most importantly from the economic perspective, very few will do the wrong thing if it costs them money.

    Add all that up...and the stage is set for "enlightened" farm policy...and now the question is, just what is that?

  5. @CF -- the "best" farm bill -- to me -- is NO farm bill. If we want to support "poor farmers" then we should rol that support in to generl support for poverty. On ag,in particular, we should improve market signals (incl externalities) and let farmers sort it out...

  6. Too bad very little of our food comes from "real farmers". I wonder what a "Real Agribusinessmen..." list would look like....?

  7. Hey, I resemble that remark! Real farmers are frugal, as in really really cheap! Real farmers recycle or compost everything. Real farmers go to bed before 8 pm and get up before 5 am. Real farmers know that asparagus has a three year waiting period, then after that yield increases for twenty years! Real farmers grow what their land grows best. Real farmers live by the cycle of till, grow, weed like mad, harvest, compost, and fix everything during the winter. A shortcut for a farmer is to feed kitchen scraps to a chicken for quick fertilizer. Real farmers can fix almost anything, or bust their knuckles trying. Real farmers use the same truck, tractor, and outbuildings for generations until they literally fall apart.

    Real farmers complain a lot--and I mean a whole helluva lot. Real farmers give their wives T shirts for their birthdays, and not much more for significant anniversaries. Real farmers wives can "can" or "put up" anything edible, and not get upset when they get a T shirt for their birthday!

    My grandad was a real farmer. He drove 12 draft horses to harvest the wheat on the hills of the Palouse country. There was no such thing as commercial fertilizer. They depended on home production to survive--chickens and cows for daily money, horses for moving things, garden and orchard for produce, and then went out of the wheat business when the bottom dropped out of the market in the commodities crash of 1929, which wiped out my other farmer grandpa too.

    It wasn't until after WWII that all the chemical farming took over, along with the military industrial complex. So I have relatives that sell Shell agricultural products, and would fit the definition of "redneck". Time will tell which approach--organic or chemical will prevail. My organic produce and happy chicken eggs cost more to produce, but net a higher per pound price at the local market. Besides, chemical farming gives me something to complain about!

  8. Years ago we were driving down I 5 in central CA and a crop duster plane let go over a field filled with farm laborers picking the crop. We could smell the stuff from the freeway. I vote no on chemical farming, yes on plenty of water for farmers.

  9. A couple of thoughts.

    I am no fan of the current farm bill, but then again some form of farm bill is probably beneficial from a policy perspective. Take many of the conservation programs, for example - EQIP, GRP, CRP, WHP, etcetera. Those things pay farmers to undertake conservation activities that your vaunted "market" sure as hell doesn't value. I certainly wouldn't do away with that.

    Nor would I do away with some of the stabilizing forces in the bill. Farmers can get whipsawed by the boom and bust cycle of international commodity production and pricing, and if it is of value to us (and it may not be, I guess, everyone has his opinion) to have a reasonably stable long-term farm sector, the commodity programs may have some value.

    Finally, the idea that the farm bill is just a bunch of special interest stuff sort of begs the question of what exactly you call government interventions in other industries. Support the airlines? Bail out the banks? Detroit? Insurance companies? Wall Street? Seems like a bad time to get too weepy about government getting involved in the business world...

    And finally, regarding "real farmers", I would say that a real farmer is whatever the hell he wants to be - regardless of what policy dorks (like me) are running their pie-holes about on some blog.

    All in good fun.

  10. CF -- you will note that the farm bills ADD volatility (most recently with ethanol) by coordinating STUPID crop decisions. Without such interventions, farmers would be better off.

    There's no reason USDA has to intervene in ag markets; there are plenty of insurance and trading opportunities outside gov't programs that are cheaper, better, more flexible, etc...

  11. Hey FourMound, good comments; but fortunately it has been a long time since the crime you described (dousing workers with a crop duster, which was a crime even then) has been practiced or tolerated in California. We lead the nation in pesticide registration, use and worker safety rules. Come take a look at some of the closed filling systems, GPS spray controls, and record keeping, and compare that to anywhere else on Earth. Perfection, no; Chemical Hell, no also.


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