My tractor costs more than your Beemer

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“My tractor costs more than your Beemer.”

— spotted on a bumper sticker

If you want to shock someone not at all connected to agriculture, just tell them the cost of a new combine, or even just a grain head that goes on that combine.

I spotted a pickup truck with enough bumper stickers on its beaten and battered tailgate to know it was a farm truck even before reading any of the messages it carried.

Aside from the Beemer sticker, another read, “I farm, you eat.” And “If you complain about farmers, don’t talk with your mouth full.”

It was Will Rodgers who said what the biggest bumper sticker on the truck read, “A farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”

Beside that bumper sticker, someone had jotted in white marker, “No joke!”

Optimistic

There are few professions that require such diligence and hard-headed shoulder-to-the wheel grit, along with an enormous dose of optimism, just to stay in business, focused not only on the current balance sheet, but with an eye always on the next season.

If the per-hour rate of pay could ever be figured for our nation’s farmers, I would bet minimum wage might look pretty dang good.

A successful farmer once told me, “We have to farm small but succeed big in order just to stay in business.”

Minute inputs

He explained that he tries hard to keep every single one of his inputs as minute as possible, even in his personal daily living, because the margins are clearly tight, the possible income finite.

“You know how they say ya can’t get blood out of a turnip — well, you can’t pay all the bills with a so-so producing herd. A farmer has to know how to optimize every single thing.”

He also said his family had not taken a vacation. Ever.

While some might be shocked by that, those of us who grew up on dairy farms didn’t find that point to be one bit surprising.

Jim Fisher, a Texas rancher, is quoted along this same line of thought. “Not a moment of life is wasted on a farm. Others have been more places, but haven’t outlived me.”

Determination

I have thought in recent days that this time of year is filled with endless work, dirt and grain dust, maddening equipment challenges and very little rest, all of which could make a farmer throw in the towel.

But, October and all that comes with it is the culmination of a year of planning, planting, tilling, cultivating, wondering and worrying. With all of the stressors, there is also an underlying determination to stay the course.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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