Before you start drafting hate mail, stay with me on this. Farmers, in general, are some of the best people I know. They’re hardworking, resilient, intelligent, and inventive. But nothing’s perfect, right? I mean, except maybe cheese. I get that stereotyping groups of people is so 2016, but as a farmer myself, I know firsthand that there are a few characteristics that seem to apply to most of us. And not all of them are positive.
One of these characteristics that, thankfully, is starting to shift is the mindset that “change is bad.” We tend to hide behind the blanket of tradition when it comes to updating how we think and farm. We’ve all heard it before, and it’s true, the phrase “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is one of the most dangerous sayings in the English language. Change is hard, but nothing I’ve ever done that was worth doing was easy.
I genuinely hate these next two things. I hate that we brag about how much we work. Yes, having a good work ethic is a strength and can get you far in life, but we wear the long hours like a badge on our chest and ask the world to appreciate us for it. The work never ends; I know, I’m a dairy farmer. But what message are we trying to send? That people should be indebted to us because we’re working our lives away for them? That our kids should live to work instead of working to live? Working so much that you never take the time to enjoy your life shouldn’t be what we’re striving for — work hard, play hard, right?
I also hate how judgmental farmers can be toward each other. Maybe this is more of an ag social media problem, but it’s not okay. I first realized it was a problem when a farmer made a post asking for advice about preventing scours on their farm. I made a simple comment about using apple cider vinegar and was basically told that I was stupid — by someone I knew. There were no questions asking for background information or how we discovered using apple cider vinegar helped, just one purposely hateful comment. Face to face, we claim that we’re all in this together and then, behind the safety of a computer monitor, that all goes away. I hate it.
We can still be farmers while working our way into the 21st century. You can be a good farmer and take a cruise to the Bahamas. You’re allowed to be sensitive and strong. None of us want to talk in stereotypes, so why are we holding on so hard to ours? Yes, there are things I don’t like about farmers, but I’ll never not love them.
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.