still requires a second income. According to the USDA's 2012 Census of Agriculture, 70% of America's 3.2 million farmers earn just one-fourth of their annual household income from their agricultural efforts. More than 60% of all farmers work some days off the farm. Or, as one fourth-generation heritage-breed cattle rancher told me, “The reality is that we're still not making it.”
As for the romanticized image of the contented modern farmer? Day in, day out, the work of producing food is still one of the hardest, messiest, most all-consuming, inconvenient and financially risky occupations. Just ask the grass-fed-cattle rancher worrying about the sky-high cost of hay feed this winter, the farmer hoping for enough return on his wheat harvest to make it through next year, or the salad grower making ends meet by catering during the summer tourist season.
"I ran into a farmer I know in December. “I'm not going to make my operating loan in February,” he told me, meaning he might lose his farm to foreclosure. A grower of organic vegetables for 50 of the top restaurants in farm-food-obsessed Portland, Ore., he had lost 4,000 pounds of his carrot crop during a bitter fall cold snap. Selling beet tops to a vitamin maker had helped, but the season's poor potato yield meant another hit to his bottom line."
The first sentence caught my eye. Lots of of farmers came up short this month. Most won't lose the farm but all that work for red ink? We know farming is a long term business and not get rich quick. Most farmers would just love to make a small profit to reinvest after paying all the bills each year and making a few improvements.
It's not working that way in our economy right now. LuAnn is turned off on farming and I don't blame her. It's another hassle she doesn't need right now. But it's my passion and I am unhappy without it. I can I be happy with it when you can't even pay your operating loan off?
We can more than break even with $9 beans this year but there is no room for mistakes or bad weather. Is it even worth it?
It's worth it to me. It's all I have to connect me to something I enjoy doing and thinking about.
Some farmers won't be so lucky. Farms change hands every year and my goal is not to have ours change hands this year.
It's more than just the money.