Over the years I have had the opportunity and privilege to work with many farmers and their families. As I think back over those experiences, I have enjoyed them and learned much from working with and in the farm community.
During much of my career with the Ohio State University Extension, known as the Agricultural Extension Service when I first started, I worked directly with farm families. Later when I was in Extension administration, my work was through others but in agriculture, the 4-H program and home economics and family living.
There are many reasons why I enjoyed my work with farmers and, in many ways, admired them. With few exceptions, farmers are friendly. They enjoy others and like to reach out to help others when there is a need. Farm communities can be close knit, perhaps not as much so as years ago, but they still rally around when a neighbor has a problem.
Like most families, farmers like to have fun. Their work pace at times can be hectic and they don't seem to have time for fun, but they will make up for that later. If at all possible they like to take vacations and see the country. They are interested and curious like most people.
Farmers live in a constant state of change. The continually changing weather is part of the reason for that. Add in the changing crop and milk prices and costs of every thing they have to buy, and it is like putting together an ever-changing puzzle. They have to always be on the alert for changes that will affect their farm business.
At the same time, most farmers take a realistic look at what they are doing. They know the uncertainties of farming and accept those as part of being a farmer. Financial aspects of farming, making a family living and a profit force them to take a hard look at their business. Those who haven't in the past, in many cases, have chosen a different occupation.
Most farmers truly want to farm. Otherwise they would not stay in the business. Because of all the uncertainties and costs of getting started, they have to be interested in and dedicated to the profession. It takes dedicated people to be successful farmers.
All farmers wear many hats. They are soil experts, veterinarians, scientists, mechanics, accountants, carpenters, computer operators and much more. Think about all the jobs that are involved in farming and the knowledge that farmers have or learn. They have a lot to think about.
Most important, farmers have a story to tell and they need to get out and tell that story to their city friends and relatives. Some are making use of Twitter, Facebook and other forms of technology, and more needs to be done. So many urban folks do not have a good picture of the job a modern farmer does, so all forms of communication need to be used. Farmers need to develop an educational program for the media so they better understand today's farms and can more accurately report farm activities.
My years of working with farm families have been interesting, enjoyable and I wouldn't trade them for any other occupation.
Parker is retired from The Ohio State University and an independent agricultural writer.