At the risk of stating the obvious, I want to say I say that I am realizing farming is a very public occupation. Most farmers enjoy their job choice because it gives them freedom to do what they want to do it with no one looking over their shoulder. They value independence and the ability to do things their own way.
However, their work place is in the open where every passer-by and, of course, their own neighbors know when a new bin is erected, what task is current by the machinery parked outside or in the field, the state of the farmer’s fertilizer program or weed control, and what is broken down, getting repaired. All these things can be done just by driving by and observing from the road.
For an occupation that prides itself in its independence, we spend a lot of time checking each other out. Even on a trip to southern Utah two years ago, my wife and I watched farming practices across the states of Nebraska, Colorado and Utah. As we drove along, we would comment to each other about the condition of crops, the state of farmsteads, activities taking place and the apparent size of livestock operations.
This is a time of year we especially are looking at each other. Every field is up for evaluation no matter where we are. One side of the road has a lot of volunteer corn in the soybeans while the other side has a soybean field that contains nothing but soybeans.
A mile further down the road is a cornfield that is even in height and dark green in color. Next to it is a cornfield with short and tall stalks that vary in height all across the field with stalks that are almost pale yellow to lime green to the dark green we expect.
The occasional field of oats has been harvested and the straw has been baled, punctuating what would be a landscape of endless shades of green. Depending on what part of the country you are in, wheat harvest has been completed or is getting near.
Farming is a private profession with a very public face. One of the reasons we watch each other is to determine “How does he do that?” We look at each other’s methods, each other’s machinery, trying to see if that is a really good idea. Would that work for me? What does it cost and what will I get back? Those are everyday thoughts.
Then there are the unofficial meetings at coffee shops, elevators, parts counters and friendly gatherings that are the backbone of this clearing house of information. “Did you see that?” is a frequent question. It is where heroes are praised and villains, once again, condemned. Names, dates, and places do not escape any scrutiny. Only the truth may suffer.
It is quite an interesting job and workplace we farmers have chosen for ourselves. We work by ourselves but always under the watch of an unofficial committee. Sometimes we are the committee and other times, the subject of the committee. I do not think I would have it any other way.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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