Planting season and the busyness that comes with it are in full swing across the Midwest. The days are long and the nights are short. After the last few years of rough, drawn out springs, there are even several farms working around the clock to get the seeds in the ground before all the rain comes. And let me tell you, if we’re following the pattern of the most recent springs, the rain will inevitably come.
Now, I’m sure that not everyone has had a rough go of it the last few springs, but at least four out of the last five years have involved significant to almost total replant for us. It’s to the point where we’re already going ahead and getting the smaller planter we keep for replanting ready even though so far everything has gone well. Even the slightest mention of rain in the ten day forecast is enough to induce a panic that we’ll have to rip everything up and start over.
It’s in these anxiety ridden moments that I remember the ever so popular quote by Will Rogers, “The farmer has to be an optimist otherwise he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”
The farmer is an optimist by ordering seed for the year to come sometimes even before he harvests the current year’s crop. He believes that everything will go smoothly or at least smoothly enough to warrant putting a crop in the ground next year.
The farmer is an optimist by planting the seed in the spring. Every year he puts seed in the ground regardless of how poorly the year before may have been and has faith that come fall there will be a crop to harvest. He may have to plant the seed for a second time, sometimes even for a third or a fourth, yet he does it even though he’s tired and worried.
The farmer is an optimist by fertilizing and spraying his crops even though he doesn’t know what the future may hold or whether or not it’s all going to be a waste of time and money.
The farmer is an optimist by harvesting his crop in the fall and putting it in the bins. He has faith that the markets will be favorable and that he’ll be able to sell his grain for not only enough money to cover his inputs but enough to support his family.
The farmer is an optimist by doing this year in and year out to keep the legacy of the family farm alive, to keep American agriculture going strong, to provide a good example of work ethic and perseverance to his kids and grandkids that they’ll take with them the rest of their lives.
There may be a lot of negativity around the table at the local diner in the mornings and plenty of worry that happens throughout the year, but every farmer is an optimist. Even the most negative, “the sky is falling” farmers out there are optimists at their core because otherwise there wouldn’t be very many farmers left.
Farming is a hard job full of stress and heartache that are caused by forces out of the farmer’s control. The things that keep them going during these times is their love of the land and the tradition; the satisfaction of a job well done; the legacy they pass on to their children; and that tiny sliver of optimism deep inside.