Perhaps you had milk with your cereal this morning; if so, you can thank a farmer. Or maybe, if you buttered your whole wheat toast, used some sweet strawberry jam or some delicious apple butter on it, you can thank a farmer.
All over Cullman County, and all over the country, there are farmers working to feed you right now, as you are reading this. They are squinting into the sun, hoping for rain, or trying to beat it before their hay gets wet. Farmers are often in a race with the clock and the weather. They think sunrise is the middle of the day, and that there are never enough hours between then and dusk.
Farmers might practice a lot of the old ways more than other professions, but they have also had to change with the times, learning to use GPS systems to plant their crops. Poultry farmers use automatic systems that have to be up to date and accurate. Fertilizer can be put on a crop in only the areas needed instead of applying it to everything. Farmers have always been and still need to be architects, engineers, electricians, plumbers and jacks of all trades. But, still, there is no computer, no machine that can be built that can work longer and harder than any animal, plowing, planting and harvesting their crops. They have to be innovative and on the cutting edge of new technology while cherishing and protecting the land that they are stewards of.
You can thank a farmer for that juicy tomato in your salad, or those green beans you ate last night. If you had a big ol’ hamburger or a prime rib steak, you can thank a rancher for the beef cattle he raised. He probably spent a lot of time making sure that his calves were safe, that his mama cows were not freezing or having a hard time giving birth. Most likely he went out in the sleet, or cold rain to check on them. He spent hours and hours in a hay field – and he wouldn’t trade that life for a city slicker job for anything in the world.
Farmers are faced with all kinds of challenges. It’s not just foreign competition; it’s the rising costs of fertilizer and fuel, equipment breaking down, hurricanes that wash away crops and droughts that threaten to wipe out a whole season’s work. It’s lack of good farm land, and farm hands to work it. Today's farmer can't make a living on the back forty that may have been passed down to them for several generations. There is a substantial financial investment being a farmer. It's not unusual for a new piece of equipment to run into six figures. Land is hard to come by and is a large investment. Even the seeds the farmer plants are expensive. Maintaining a farm and keeping it running is not for the faint of heart if it is done correctly.
However, for the farmer, the upside of farming is knowing that he is growing the safest, most nutritious food in the entire world.
It takes a special breed of men and women to farm. They hardly ever get to go on vacation because that’s the time when most crops are coming in. Cows, pigs and chickens don’t know Sunday from any other day. It takes a farmer to know when the soil is perfect for planting certain seeds, and what to do to it if it’s not looking or smelling just right.
Most farmers spend a lot of time talking to the Lord; petitioning Him for the right weather at the right time. Praying fervently that disease won’t attack their chickens, or blight won’t ruin this year’s corn crop.
Farmers are stoic folks. They hardly ever ask for help, but you just let a neighbor’s barn catch fire, or a flash flood threaten someone’s crops and they are the first ones there – pulling up in their pick-up trucks, doing whatever it takes to save it, whatever the case might be.
It’s not an easy life; no one ever accused farmers of having a cushy job. At lunchtime farmers wash the dust from their faces and arms and join their wives or their mamas at a table that’s been in the family for so many years it’s like an old friend. It’s probably loaded with things that the farm family planted, hoed, weeded, pulled or picked, put up in the freezer or canned, and cooked on a stove that heats up the whole house in the winter.
Don’t forget to say a little prayer for the farmers who make our lives better in so many ways. The next time you see that guy with the John Deere cap out there on the tractor in the morning just as the sun is coming up, give some thought to just where your food does come from…and thank a farmer when you get the chance.
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