February 2016
Farm & Field

Farming: A Labor of Love

The Old Rotation at Auburn University that is tended by professors and students.  

Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion. This statement rings true with most farmers. They get stressed when working on anything else, but they thrive under the pressures of farming. Why? One word: love. Farmers love what they do and that is proven over and over again when they continue farming – when literally anything else would be easier. It is also reflected when they reminisce on why they started farming.

Garrett Dixon, a young farmer in Salem, explained his love for farming started at an early age. Dixon grew up on a farm in East Alabama, and knew early on that he wanted to farm in some capacity, whether full- or part-time. Dixon’s grandfather, Ed Gullate, was a large influence on his love for farming.

"Even though he passed away when I was 10, he helped instill in me the love and passion for agriculture I have today," Dixon explained.

Because of that passion, Dixon applied for a Youth Loan through the Farm Service Agency at the young age of 17. This loan allowed him to purchase his first head of registered Angus cattle. A few years after, he decided to begin row cropping; now he has grown wheat, soybeans and sesame over the last two years.

Not all of those years have been easy going, but Dixon has continued to do what he loves, because there is nothing else he would prefer.

"Each year has had its challenges, especially with the weather, but each day I look forward to going to work again," Dixon said.

As we all know, farming is not the easiest profession in the world. One farmer now feeds 155 people; a lot of that is because of technology, but another important aspect is work ethic. If farmers gave up when the going got tough, there would not be enough food to feed the 7 billion people on the earth.

Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs has seen his fair share of hard, disgusting and testing jobs. Through these experiences, he wrote "The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge." This stands for Skill and Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo. All of the points in the pledge apply to farmers, but there are a few who stand out greatly.

"I believe there is no such thing as a bad job. I believe all jobs are opportunities, and it is up to me to make the best of them," Rowe said.

In the agriculture industry, we all know there are jobs we would rather not have – whether it is an actual job with a title or just a chore that needs to get done. But, somehow, they all still get done, and with little-to-no complaining.

"I do not follow my passion. I bring it with me. I believe any job can be done with passion and enthusiasm," he added.

This is something that is incredibly important to agriculture. There are so many different jobs that a farmer has to complete in one season, and in one year. Because of the wide span of jobs, it is important that a farmer brings passion to everything, instead of just planting cotton or working cows. There are also a large diversity of jobs available in the agriculture industry that make taking passion with you incredibly important.

"I believe the best way to distinguish myself at work is to show up early, stay late and cheerfully volunteer for every crappy task there is," he said.

Farmers work from sun up to sun down. It is not a normal 9-to-5 job, not that anything is wrong with those jobs. In agriculture, you work until the job is finished or it is too dark to see. That is just one characteristic that makes farmers some of the hardest workers.

One example of farmers fighting on when it would be so much easier to give up that expressed their love for their livelihood happened in December 2015. Right around Christmas, parts of the Southwest were hammered with snow.

"Cows have literally been buried alive for two days," said Robert Hagevoort, a dairy Extension agent with New Mexico State University. "Some of them were alive when they were found, and some of them weren’t."

Farmers in that area continued on fighting, searching for cows and continuing on with their lives as best they could. The farmers were exhausted, overwhelmed and devastated, but yet they continued persevering. This speaks to the work ethic, faith and love not just these farmers but all farmers have for their farms.

According to Einstein, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By this definition, farmers may be insane because after all the struggles they have they keep on farming. But that is what makes farmers special. If it was easy, it would be something everyone was willing to try.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.