Monday, March 7, 2011

A Real Job

Okay, so I grew up with a dad who taught agriculture at both the high school and college level. That was his real job. However, when I was in grade school, he started "farming on the side" in the same place where we live right now. He bought a beater of a pick up truck, worked all day at school and then sometimes wouldn't come home until we had long since been tucked into bed during the busy seasons.

He loved (and still loves) the actual act of farming. However, couldn't support us as a family with the income generated by the grain farming industry.

Fast forward 25 years, and here we are. Joe and I moved to this place, nearly five years ago, so we could be closer to our family, and he could pursue his childhood dream of being a farmer. However, his real job at the time was still being a national agriculture educational consultant. That was what paid the bills. That was what we were able to count on. The markets and cattle prices were important, don't get me wrong, but we had a paycheck that we could depend upon.

Thanks to the lovely state of our finances in the educational sector, Joe became too expensive to employ by the company, so we had to take a big risk and have farming become his real job. Full time. All eggs in this basket.

I am thankful that we have had this opportunity to stretch ourselves, to trust in this profession, to truly watch over all of our finances and learn how to truly budget (well, I learned; Joe taught). We have had to truly figure out what purchases, vacations, etc. are important to us, what's not, and then plan and plan and plan. It's been a good exercise for an impulse spender who is impatient...aka, me.

However, when I mention to someone I have just met that Joe is a farmer, almost always, my second question from those unfamiliar with agriculture is, "Is that his real job?"


Yes. It is. Yes, we know that in the media we're considered evil, and in the Midwest, we're truly in the minority. Many of our friends, members of the FarmHouse Fraternity, no less, would love to be farmers full time. I've heard the conversations, but they can't swing it. The lure of the paycheck is too much. The stability of health insurance and a 401K is too good of a deal. Every dude wants to play in the dirt, but no one wants to give up his flat screen TV, ski trips to Colorado, and nice, not-so-farmy looking pick up truck.

Do I blame them?


Thus, we are now at a crossroads, a transition, if you will. Joe has taken a "real job." He has an amazing opportunity to work in crop insurance with a successful, established business with a really nice boss. He has to make appointments and head out during the day now. He has to work on Sunday afternoons, tending to the cattle herd (especially during this time), so that he can be ready to attend meetings, trainings, appointments and the like, to help build this new opportunity.

Why am I okay with this, when it's cramping my style of running out to here and there without worrying about childcare?

Because, admittedly, I am okay with the concept of a real job. I am okay with financial stability. I am okay with "something on the side" (in business sense, only!). I am thankful that, although the markets play a big role in my grocery and clothing budgets, and the fact that I am staying at home, it's nice to have something to help lessen the Target bill blow.

Farming is a noble, necessary, and, not-so-predictable way of life. I wish that we could be at the point that Joe could just call this profession his real job, but we're not. And, realistically, there are a lot of other young farmers (and old, I guess) who are in the same boat. Crop insurance, seed sales, trucking corporations, etc. are side jobs that fill the gaps in our unstable environment.

However, when will I be able to answer, confidently, that Joe is a full time farmer, and that I'm okay with that, and no, we're not destitute or crazy? Probably never, thanks to the lavish lifestyles we Americans enjoy living.

Until then, I'll continue to answer my most asked question with the lengthy response I tend to give, and hope that some day, just being a farmer will be enough for us.


  1. Wow, did this post hit home with me today. I found out on Saturday that my (ag based) employer is taking a major turn, and not by their decision. This change has the potential to either cut my salary by 15% or eliminate my job altogether. I have thought about going back to the family farm and trying to make a go of it there, but I also want to check out all of my options. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your perspective, so I can keep mine.

  2. My husband is a full time farmer and I am a stay-at-home mom. I wouldn't want it any other way yet I totally understand what you are saying. I wish you the best and good luck to your Joe!

  3. I love this post so much more than you'll ever know Emily. Your children are so incredibly lucky to have you and Joe making the decisions you are these days. And never ever would I call farmers evil. Evil people always take the easy road. I've never known a single farmer who had such a road to take. xoxo