Gambling your life is the farmer’s life

As October comes to an end, the harvest is almost finished and once again the money from selling the harvest will determine if the gamble we took in the spring paid off. Do you know many professions where one risks everything every year? Not just for the fun of it, but because it is the nature of the job.

Being a farmer is taking a chance repeatedly; each spring the choice of seeds, in which field to plan what, represents a challenge which is never guaranteed because completely everything is dependent on the temperature, the quality of seeds and the soil. Each spring you buy mostly promising to pay in the fall after the harvest. Each spring you hope that you made the right choice, that everything will go as expected. And when you start planting you can’t go back on your choices. Your bet has been made. If the soil is too wet and you can’t go into the field with the machinery you can still change the seed you were planning to plant but if you started and halfway through it starts to rain for 10 days, the only thing you can do is hope for the best or pray if you’re religious.

But sometimes like this past May in our region (Lac Saint-Jean), you just know that the soil is too wet and not much will grow after being flooded following 10 days of heavy rain. You either chose not to go into the field and leave it unplanted making sure you won’t have a penny for it because planting nothing gives nothing, or you go and modify your planting plan, change corn for wheat, soybeans for oats and hope the soybeans and corn already in the soil will grow. Of course, changing your planting plan will impact your income; the market doesn’t pay the same for a tonne of soybeans ($698.87) and a tonne of oats ($339.44). Corn has more yield per hectare than wheat, it produces more tonnes per hectare and therefor more income. Like I said in past blogs, you need to be a jack of all trades to be a farmer! Very few farmers are not counting and recounting while they’re sitting in their tractor, trying to figure out if they’ll have enough money to pay the year’s expenses.

I want to talk a little more about the fact that farmers risk their businesses almost every spring to feed their fellow Canadians. It takes a special kind of person to choose a life where what you do is not appreciated, not understood and where you are always facing accusations that you don’t respect the environment or mistreat your animals. How crazy is that? The very animals and land that provide your livelihood?! Do you think Canada would still be a world leader in agriculture in 2022 if farmers did not take good care of the land and didn’t provide the best care possible for their animals? Talk about thankless work!

It’s not an easy or a cheap life, that’s for sure. The agricultural machinery and buildings cost a lot of money and it’s easy to think that farmers are rich, but its only on paper, and almost all of it is being paid off to financial institutions each month. For example, my partner is a Pioneer and Samco rep in our region on top of being a farmer so he can have an income outside of his farm. So, before judging by looking in the window, come inside and ask questions. Any farmer will be happy to talk about their day to day and why they do what they do, it’s more than a job, it’s a way of life.

And now, a recession is at our door, sometimes I think it’s already here, but Minister Freeland says that it will be worse in 2023. Again, all the prices for everything will go up, hopefully the various studies looking at agri-food supply chains and grocery pricing will shed some light on why we as consumers pay so much for food while the people producing it don’t really see any of that money.

Let’s keep our chin up, there is always someone who has it harder than us. As November is now upon us, we should start planning and saving the little we can give to others for everyone to have a merry end of year.