September 22, 2019. The Fall Equinox. It feels like a pivotal moment in time, in my life. I want to change my way of being, the way I’m living, what I’m doing, and what I’m consuming on a day-to-day basis.
As summer moves into fall (and then inevitably into winter), I feel the need to pull back, to reflect, and become more introspective. Outwardly, I am also being somewhat forced to do this in ways I could not have imagined a few short months ago.
Nathan and I have been trying so hard to make it all work here at Drager Farms. Trying this thing and that thing and one thing after another, in the hopes that *some* thing will work. I sense that Nathan feels obligated to his grandfather and his great-grandfather to continue the family legacy, so I try to help in any way that I can – knowing full well that this farming life is not necessarily my path – but I want to support his happiness and his path. But god damn.. it is so SO hard.
I come from a family of farmers too, rooted in West Virginia. My grandmother always said, “Farming’s a hard life, but it’s a good life.” I hear her words so often lately because I now completely understand what she meant. And maybe now, in today’s economic and political times, her statement is 1,000x more true.
I had no idea that the government could tell you what you can and cannot do on a “privately owned” land. It seems like the more Nathan and I try to become independent entrepreneurs, living off the land in a sustainable (and hopefully exemplary) fashion, the more the ‘powers that be’ look over our shoulders and shake their fingers at us like, “Uh, uh, uh… We see you… Now you *know* that’s not what good children should do until WE say it’s ok.”
I just.. I don’t.. even. I don’t. know.
So I ask: Do you actually KNOW what it means to be a farmer today and why things are the way they are with GMO corn and soy everywhere you look and concentrated animal feeding operations as the status quo? Please get ready to dive in deep……………….
The government only subsidizes farmers who grow corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice.
“Large farms” are defined as having an income of $1 million or more; large farms comprise only 3% of U.S. farms. But these large farms now dominate crop production in the United States. Most of these farms focus on one commodity, and one out of five of them were started in the last decade (i.e., not family/inter-generational farms). 1
Government subsidized farm programs are welfare for the well-to-do, and they induce overproduction, inflate land prices, and harm the environment. 2
On a personal level: recently, a farmer pulled his dairy operation out of the Drager’s barn (at a loss of $1,000/month) because he couldn’t afford the bedding he needed to make this relationship symbiotic and beneficial for all involved. This is yet another instance why CAFO’s continue to operate at an advantage – much to everyone’s ‘purported’ dismay. 3
Then there is the news that farmers are somehow ‘just fine’, maybe even doing well or BETTER than the average American working at a 9-5. 4 I can tell you first-hand this couldn’t be further from the truth. My guy works a 9-5 (or should I say a 2p-3a) and then works the farm BEFORE HE GOES TO WORK and we are LUCKY to have additional income – or time – to take a vacation ANYWHERE. Hell, we’ve never even camped on our own property or even spent a night in our own renovated barn cuz we’re too exhausted to think about doing something of the sort!
I seriously think I could go on and on about all of the injustices I have seen in the ‘farming system’ over the last three years. I know Nathan is trying to do the right thing but geez Louise, ‘they’ sure don’t make it easy. God bless ANY future farmers of America. They’re gonna need all the help they can get.