Agriculture and parenting have a lot in common. Both are high risk with the potential for high reward. Both require a lot of inputs without any guarantee of yield.
And both require optimism — astounding amounts of optimism — in good times and in bad.
My parents, both of whom are from multigeneration farm families, started a custom harvesting business in 1974. I grew up in wheat and barley fields across middle America.
My husband is the sixth generation of his family to farm U.S. soil. He grew up with hogs and row crops; he now raises corn and soybeans and has a cow-calf herd. He has particular interests in pasture management and cover crops.
We have four children, ages 7, 5, 3 and 1. Between the births of our third and fourth kids, I left a 13-year career on the Kearney Hub’s copy desk to become support staff for our farm and raise the family. I also work from our kitchen table as a freelance editor and designer with customers across the U.S. Our farm and my small business support our family.
Four times a year, this farm-and-family column will address one of my chief interests as a parent. I want my children to have a healthy, working knowledge of agriculture, and if they eventually choose careers in agriculture, I want them to have the foundation and the opportunity to pursue it.
Further, I want this column to positively influence the conversation about agriculture, so that any child dreaming about the future sees an ag career as a viable dream. People in agriculture now must pave the way for future generations to have opportunities to pursue agriculture as a career and lifestyle.
Farming today is in a defensive position on many fronts. Conventional production or organic, crop or livestock, large or small, rural or urban, family or corporate or, yes, family corporation — no sector is exempt.
Farmers are criticized for using accepted best practices to ensure a high quality, bountiful food supply and are not recognized for remarkable advances in agriculture that enable increased production through decreased use of resources.
There are many voices in the ag conversation, and many of the loudest, most charismatic voices are disconnected from agriculture. Many are multiple generations removed from the farm and approach their criticism of agriculture with few facts and with anecdotes rather than experience.
Negative examples can be found in agriculture as in every endeavor, and certainly farms must make money to survive. But agriculture is a necessary intersection of people and the environment that only thrives when both sides are healthy, and the vast majority of people who are involved in agriculture maintain a commitment to ensuring that relationship is a robust and thriving one.
We need to have an open, respectful conversation about agriculture and the stewards of the land, animals and resources — the people who seek to feed the world. Otherwise, the future farmers in my kids’ generation don’t stand a chance; and without farmers, the whole world doesn’t stand a chance. Media sensations and niches come and go, but the need to feed humanity does not.
No two families are alike, no two farms are alike, and my perspective is just one perspective. I look forward to readers’ responses in furthering and enriching this conversation.
This Soils and Streams column first appeared in the March 15, 2015, issue of the Kearney Hub.