Farmers Need Funds, Too

If you ate today, thank a farmer. If you know where your food comes from, thank them even more. Knowing where your food comes from can be a challenge, especially in the North.

Why should a person support a local farmer when the food they sell is often more expensive than what can be found in the grocery store? Such a question could be asked about supporting any local business, and farming is a business. Sure there is the wonderful lifestyle of living close to nature and the satisfaction of a job well done at the end of the day. But we wouldn’t expect a lawyer to take as compensation the satisfaction of a wrong being made right. Why then would we expect someone who provides something everyone is in need of to work for a minimal wage?

Recently I read an article written by an organic farmer in the U.S. Her article talked about how small farms are unsustainable economically, even though they are sustainable ecologically. However, most of the “food movement” will agree that large, corporate farms are ecologically unsustainable, with the combined use of monocroping and chemicals.

The workers are usually interns who receive room and board along with their low weekly pay. Often there are unpaid workers as “wwoofers” (willing workers on organic farms) who also work for room and board and the experience of learning to farm organically.

And then there are the farmers themselves.

The author went on to say that in addition to working on their farms, farmers often seek additional income by working off the farm, too. She concludes it should be possible farmers to make their livings on the farm.

I agree. Both Al and I work off the farm, too, which can be a juggling-act. With tax time coming up I have been doing some number crunching and I realized that we each made about $8.90/hour last year, based on a forty hour week, including our off-farm income. But I also know there were many weeks in the summer where we work longer than forty hours a week — more like 60. And we aren’t alone. Most farmers I know tend to work those long hours, especially during the summer. While the payback financially seems to be very small, there are some benefits. It’s a wonderful way of life, and growing food is necessity for existence on this planet, so our job is indispensible.

And besides, I always wanted to be a farmer, even before I knew what the financial compensation would be. Right? 

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