Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson lights up the football field for his team, but he got his work ethic from his family farm in Kansas. The family, which farms wheat and 1,000 head of cattle, welcome Nelson back every off-season. Nelson even made a promotional video for Angus TV talking about his life growing up on the farm and wanting to return after his NFL career. While the story garnered plenty of praise on social media, there were also some less than polite comments. Several commenters mocked Nelson for riding around on an old tractor without a cab, which they said made him a “fake” farmer.
Unfortunately, these types of comments are all too common on social media and in real life. Farmers seem to always be in some type of competition with one another — as if the age of your tractor, the look of your truck, and the number of acres you have defines whether you are a good farmer. Why are we in agriculture so eager to throw out comments to boost our egos? Does that really lift up our industry? Does that really help the cause? When done on social media, how does that look to the general public?
I get it, while farmers are all in the same industry and producing the same commodities, we are all also in competition with one another. Each of our farms is a business that is producing the same product as the next farm over. There is a natural sense of competition for resources, consumers, and our margin-thin profits.
However, there is still room for us to understand that other farms are in different stages, at different places financially, and being run under different circumstances. Instead of comparing each other, this presents an opportunity to help and support each other, not brag about our superior place in the world.
So, here are a few things we can all stop trying to brag about because, really, it just doesn’t matter.
Number of acres
We farm just over 2,000 acres in Michigan. That means we’re a pretty good sized farm for our area. In other parts of the country, we would be small fries. While 2,000 acres can support our family by growing corn and soybeans, a fruit and vegetable farm could be much, much smaller to generate the same income. Farms come in all sizes and for different reasons. Maybe the farm is a first-generation farm, or the family supplements its income with off-farm work. Whatever the reason, there is no need to use this number as a means of bragging.
Our yields are not something I disclose on any of my “agvocating” platforms because, quite frankly, it’s no one’s business. That doesn’t mean people don’t ask me every single harvest season to report our bushels per acre. I’ll happily let you know if we had a good year or a bad year, but no one needs to compare yields with us. There are so many factors that go into yield — soil type, weather, seed type — that making comparisons isn’t really fair anyway.
And, no, just because I won’t share our yields doesn’t mean they’re dismally low.
As we have already established, farms come in all shapes and sizes. Some farms are struggling financially right now. Some farms are more frugal than others. Some farms are just getting started. Some are doing really well. Just because someone’s farm doesn’t have a fancy tractor with all the latest technological trimmings doesn’t mean that someone is a “fake” farmer or any less of a farmer than anyone else.
The “Haha, We Beat You!” every season
Oh, you farm in Texas and managed to get your corn crop in weeks before we were able to finish up in Michigan? Good for you. Every year farmers make comments to me that we are somehow doing it wrong because we plant later and finish harvest later than them. Listen, farmers in different parts of the country are going to be on a different timetable based on the weather. We are doing what we can when the time is right. Besides, this isn’t a race.
Brand new buildings
Maybe you’re lucky enough to have brand new barns and buildings littering your farm. We have several ourselves. Not every farm does. I have dairy farmers who are afraid to post photos of their barns because they are not brand new and shiny … and someone always has to make a nasty comment about it. Again, we are all in a different place. Instead of making fun of those barns, how about offering to help repair them?
The bottom line is that there are a lot of challenges facing farmers right now. High supply. Low prices. Wildfires. Financial problems. Activists. We do not need to add to it by making everything a competition. We are all making choices on our farms based on unique circumstances. It isn’t always about bragging rights.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.