When Farming Isn’t Fair
Updated: Sep 12, 2019
Life isn’t fair. It’s the first tough lesson learned by every farm kid. No matter how hard you work. No matter how well your crops are growing. No matter how late you’re up with a sick calf. Despite your best efforts, things can take a turn for the worse as sure as the sun rises.
Those unfair truths seemed especially harsh when we sat our kids down to explain that our family will no longer be a dairy farm family. In June, we’ll milk our last cows. We’ll help load them on a trailer and watch them roll down the driveway. We’ll stand in front of a barn, empty for the first time in more than 60 years and three generations. Yes, life is never fair on the farm.
For the past four years, we’ve watched the price of milk steadily decline. We’ve tried to operate leaner while the economy around us improves more and more. And while families in other industries are making more, they’re spending more on alternative food fads. Commodity prices are taking a nosedive. Political trade wars are limiting markets. One of the wettest years on record left crops drowning. Across the U.S., farmers are hurting. But they make up less than two percent of our population. So, for the rest, the 98 percent, — those who have only seen black and white photos of their great, great grandparents working on a farm — it’s difficult to understand what's behind the food on their table.
For us, it’s personal. We’ve been sad. We’ve been frustrated. We’ve been angry. Farming isn’t just a job. It’s our identity. It’s our heritage. And we feel the effects extend far beyond our family. It’s our veterinarian who’s become a neighbor and friend. It’s our hoof trimmer who’s battling lung cancer. It’s our friends who’ve already watched trailers take their cows away. It’s that one remaining dairy family left in Hanover County.
It’s all too difficult to explain to two elementary-age children who love their cows. So, life isn’t fair. We’re picking ourselves up. Trusting in God. Looking for a new career for a farmer with a work ethic that’s rare these days. Focusing on the positive. Spending more time with family and friends. Taking more vacations and weekends off. Coaching little league. Sleeping in past 3 a.m. After the last cattle trailer pulls out in June, we’ll go on living life, fair or no fair.