Why do farmers work four hundred hours a month to feed people who think they are trying to kill them? There is an easy answer to this question, we just simply love what we do. Farming can be defined as the activity or business of growing crops and raising livestock. When you lay it out like that it sounds simple, but there is much more to it than feeding a cow and planting a seed into the ground. Farming has become a very technical and time consuming art with the large advancement in technology in recent years. Feeding a planet of seven billion plus is not an easy task to say the least.
When the typical person thinks of a farmer they probably picture a rough looking male or female who drives a truck, always hogging up the road in their tractor, and always looks filthy. Though all of these traits may be true that is not all a farmer is. From my standpoint being from central Illinois there are only two basic types of farming, that being row crop or livestock. Row crop farms in Illinois primarily consist of corn and soybeans. That being said every operation is run differently and managed different, none the less the main goal year after year is to produce the best crop possible at the lowest cost. Now one who doesn’t know much about farming may think that farmers just put the seed in the ground and harvest it when it’s ready, that is not even close to correct. Farming is a very sensitive and risk taking profession that most wouldn’t understand unless they grew up around it.
Row crop farming starts first with the seed. Farmer book their seed orders usually around July/August to plant sometime in May/April. That doesn’t sound so hard right? Not until you’re the one in bank every year taking out a loan anywhere between $50,000-$750,000 risking it all for a tiny piece of seed. After the seed is planted or even before there are stressful decisions to be made about fertilizer rates or preplant spraying. Once the seed has emerged farmers basically only have the responsibility of managing pest control through spraying on their own or crop dusting with an airplane. But without proper weather conditions during the growing season anything could happen come harvest time. Some farmers ground may be ruined from flooding or hail, but the next morning they still get up and work because they love what they do. Other farmer’s may be blessed and have no damage come harvest and that’s what it is all about. Taking the risk pouring all of your money into one basket to be rewarded after all the hard work and long hours put in over the course from March to October, that’s why we love what we do.
Then on the other side of things we have livestock. Livestock can be many different animals but around here it mostly consists of cattle and hogs. Livestock farming and row crow farming are very far apart from another in a lot of aspects. In row crop you’re taking out huge loans and working long hours for certain months of the year but there is eventually some down time. Livestock involves a different type of person, one who is patient and much more focused and particular. The thing with livestock is that it is a twenty-four seven, three hundred sixty five day a year job. Livestock, just like humans, need attention, fed every day, pins need cleaned and maintained. Something that can’t be predicted is if the herd breaks out with a sickness, or busts through a fence and runs loose, someone has to be there to go get them and guide them back home or give out shots and call the vet. With livestock you’re on your toes at all times. Farmers can go days on minimal hours of sleep during calving season after they just put in a 12 hour day fixing fence and feeding animals. Livestock is a whole new world, and it takes a whole different type a person to do it day in and day out.
Agriculture is an industry that we as humans will always need and will not be dying out anytime soon. With the population growing and practices continuing to evolve who knows where we’re going to be five, ten, fifteen years from now. Most people don’t understand why some would want to do it, but we just love what we do.
Hello! My name is Joe Breece and I am a senior at Western Illinois University where I major in Ag Business with a minor in Finance. I grew up in the rural town of White Hall, Illinois where my parents ran the local pharmacy and I worked on a row crow/cattle farm. I have developed a passion for advocating for the agricultural industry, and I hope that it only continues to grow stronger.