What’s Missing is the Farmer

Joan Conrow made a great point in her most recent blog post the other day when she asked the question of why we are not growing more food.

What’s missing are farmers. Though many love the rhetoric associated with farming, fewer are willing to embrace it as a livelihood.

She goes on to point out that farming seems very idyllic but that there is harsher reality with actually living it.  Some people who farm are able to do it because of other streams of income, while for others it is their sole source of income.

When most people think of farming, they get the impression that it is getting your hands in the land and growing something.  Farming is much more than that indeed.

A farmer is not only a steward of the land, but also a business person.  In order to make it a livelihood, he needs labor which means hiring people and taking care of them.  The farmer has to take care of labor law compliance, benefits, workmans’ compensation, safety laws, payroll management, and knowing the tax laws also.

The farmer also has to be a mechanic and heavy machine operator.  Some one has to teach the hired help how to drive and fix the tractors and how to get them around the field safely to harvest fruit.

Not only does the farmer have to take care of business and run the equipment, he also has to have a good knowledge of pests and diseases, so that his crop won’t be lost.  He teaches his workers how to recognize and care for the crops and when to take care of pests.

Another duty that a farmer has to do is take care of his customers and follow up to be sure that his product is up to par.  He spends his time talking with customers to make sure that they are happy with his produce.  It’s about building and maintaining relationships and partnerships to support each other.

Joan really hit the nail on the head with her blog post.  As much as Hawaii wants to have a sustainable food supply, we can’t if no one wants to actually do it.  It’s easy to sit back and want to have more local products and local foods but if no one is going to actually do it, it won’t happen.

We’ve got to support the farmers now so that the future is brighter for the next generation to pursue it.  If our leaders truly want to walk the talk, they’d be looking out for what’s in the best interest to preserved farming and the farmers.  Stop with adding a “home rule” burden and take a look at what really needs to happen.

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