Farmers — and what the Bloomberg narrative left out
Soon they will be tilling the fields in our region and state.
Then they will be planting corn and a whole bunch of other stuff that will eventually wind up on your dinner table. They will nurture and harvest their product crops and receive not nearly enough compensation for them.
And most of them will be doing this while milking cows, baling hay and raising cattle.
The daily before-dawn-until-after-dark routine includes fortunes that can rise and fall on the whims of drought and thunderstorms, a tractor that breaks down or the myriad medical needs and quirks of cows, horses, chickens, pigs and assorted other farm animals.
Beyond incredible work ethic and economic survival instincts, their job requires common sense, intelligence, intuition, science, mechanics and business acumen.
In that context, imagine what their reaction was recently when billionaire Mike Bloomberg included a description of their occupation in his brief-but-too-long presidential flirtation: Dig a hole, plant a seed, water it, cover it up and wait for it to grow.
It’s hard to conjure up a more revealingly out-of-touch synopsis of farmers.
You know these people. They live next to you, or around the bend, or the next community over. They feed you. They feed our county. They feed our state. They feed our nation. And, yeah, they feed our world. They come in the form of mom-and-pop operations that are the neighbors in country villages. And they come in the form of mammoth corporate operations. There are 30,000 farms in Pennsylvania that are in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
It’s true that the natural gas industry has revived Pennsylvania’s economic fortunes.
It’s true that a heavy manufacturing and technology presence helps drive employment.
It’s also true that agriculture remains arguably the key economic driver in Pennsylvania, as correctly pointed out in a visit last fall by Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding to Union County.
And it’s driven by the most earnest, unassuming people in the world.
You can’t know or appreciate what they do unless you live next to them.
Which I did for 15 years in Nisbet after purchasing a 13.9-acre plot in 1991 that remained from what was originally a 200-acre parcel along Village Drive.
The farmers knew they were getting green city kids. And we had no idea what to expect after a lifetime lived in an elbow-to-elbow environment.
Then life happened.
And we learned that the distance from Williamsport to Nisbet was exponentially greater than six miles and a 10-minute drive.
We found out farmers can teach you how to fix the pool filter that you never imagined yourself dealing with.
We found out they have this sixth sense that comes from having to solve every problem yourself because the solution is not next door.
How did they know that the fence we had worked on to keep our two horses we bought on impulse would break down during a rainstorm? And how did they find them and bring them back in the middle of the night?
How did they miraculously show up with a backhoe to clear our driveway of the near-record snowstorm in the first week of March in 1993 while I was idled by a six-month-pregnant wife with a broken leg?
How did they know the perfect three days to cut, turn, dry and load hay in the summer, the work powered by a horse-drawn carriage and wagon?
How did they know what to say and when to make outsiders feel like lifelong neighbors, forgiving the fact that we had little to offer them while learning a new lifestyle?
They just did.
And long before Nike told us to “Just do it,” they just did it, without a lot of talk, preaching, boasting or self-congratulation.
Now, with the Chesapeake Bay cleanup a matter of environmental necessity, the inference is that the pollution is all the farmers’ fault.
Careful with that assumption. As the agriculture secretary said, farmers can’t be blamed for all the pollution.
And while it’s okay to demand agriculture reforms to help with the bay cleanup, let’s make sure we don’t literally bite the hand that feeds us.
Because, as a certain billionaire likely has found it, the skills of a farmer can’t be bought or taught in a five-minute YouTube video.
They are unique.
The people that possess them are special
And we can’t live without them.
David F. Troisi is retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette.