The exclusivity of agriculture

I consider myself to be a different kind of farmer. Well I am doing it now. I didn’t label myself as such until I started talking about our farm on social media. I mean, everyone thinks he’s normal until he starts comparing himself to others, right? At first I was pretty shy about it. I have worked hard to be accepted as a smart source on dairy farming while being myself. The hardest part was getting the acceptance I expected from other farmers. I wanted them to see that while I wore sticky mustaches and spoke with silly accents, I was also spreading the truth about farming to people who desperately needed to hear it.

As a full-time commercial farmer, I’m ashamed to admit it, but we don’t accept the difference. Be really honest with yourself and define the word “firm”. Most of us see a few hundred cows, a thousand acres, or a life that is consumed by agriculture. But what about the guy who manages 20 heads of beef in an area down the road? Or the family with two dairy cows that they use to make cheese and sell it locally? Or the retired couple with 50 acres they use to make and sell hay each year for extra income? I understand; they probably do not fully understand the difficulties and pressures of caring for hundreds of animals on a daily basis. They may not be aware of the responsibility of providing work and income for multiple families. But does that mean they don’t know about struggles? Their struggles may not be on the same scale, but they are still struggles. I was reminded of this recently as I reread the secrets I had collected over the past two years.

Secrets of agriculture is a project where I invite people from the agricultural world to anonymously share their secrets with me. I then share them for others to read and possibly sympathize with. It was enlightening. When I reread this secret below the other day, it inspired me to write this article. It made me realize how critical and ostracized we can be. The good news is we can change that. Slowly, but surely, we can change.

To the person who sent this secret, I’m sorry you are feeling lonely. Agriculture is so insulating. I’m sorry you don’t have anyone to talk to. I am not only proud of you, I am in awe of you. You are doing more than most to achieve your dreams, and it is no small feat.

Last year was a very difficult year on the farm. I lost half of my herd. And I couldn’t talk about it because people really don’t understand agriculture. My family doesn’t care and I run the farm myself in addition to a full time career offsite. No husband, no children. I have a dozen dog and cat rescues and even a rescue pony, but I sell my goats for meat and I’m a hunter. I only saved animals until I ran the farm 2.5 years ago, so most of my Facebook followers know me from the rescue. They know I have goats and raise them, but I always notice their eyes when I admit that I sell meat. They certainly don’t understand my enthusiasm for studying a carcass. And the dead ? I don’t talk about it much. People don’t want to hear about it. So I take it all on my own. I had a death a few weeks ago and honestly after so many deaths last year I’m numb. I literally didn’t feel anything. I haven’t even told anyone about it. I was so ashamed to feel like I had let down my herd when half of them died. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with my life. I would never give up farming. I was designed for this and have learned so much in 2.5 years. I hope my farm will be 100 times bigger than it is now in twenty years. But I’m alone. I wish I had people close to me who I could talk to about anything ordinary people don’t want to know. I wish there were people I could call when making a business decision. And most importantly, I would like someone to tell me how proud they are of me, that they see the work that I do and that I am successful.

Jessica peters

The author works in partnership with his parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica graduated from Pennsylvania State University and, since 2015, has been active in promoting dairy products in her local community. You can find her with her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.

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