January 21, 2021
Doing something physical outdoors, where you can plainly see the results of your efforts, is one of the most rewarding things a person can experience. If you have never had the opportunity to do something like that (say paint something like a shed, chair, house etc or come and weed a field for free for Elmridge…wink wink, nudge nudge….) I suggest you try it. Keep in mind though that you may have to work at it to build some competency. Those of us who do physical things are generally not born with some magical ability as many people surmise. We slowly build and hone our knowledge and skills over a lifetime of effort. Believe me, when I was a kid I dealt with endless frustration as my overly ambitious dutch mind struggled to figure things out and to get my body to do as it was told! The fact that the work our employees do on the farm is officially considered "low skill” by our bureaucracy is dead wrong and shows deep lack of understanding of the reality. As I have said before, the men and women who work on our farm year after year have a skill set that takes at least a decade to hone. Proof of that is that, even with Jamaicans and Mexicans, any employees younger than their late twenties are rarely our most efficient workers. Canadians with no previous experience only get half as much work done. If we were, as a country, to replace our foreign professionals with locals who are considered professional in other fields I would guess the cost of fresh produce would have to increase by at least 50% in order for Canadian farms to stay in business. Unskilled labour…..grrrrr!
Back to the beauty of physical work. The result of seeing a job well done is a shot of dopamine and a feeling of satisfaction as good as any pay check. If everyone had the opportunity to work for a period in agriculture I am sure there would be much less need for farm workers from other countries because there would be so many more people giving up dollars for satisfaction.
The unfortunate fact is that our society only pays close to minimum wage for physical work and adds to that based on perceived skill required, responsibility, or risk taken. That results in most of us never even considering a truly physical occupation and opting for some sort of paper or data shuffling that affords us a much higher standard of living. I likely would have been in the same situation myself had I not been born on a farm and become addicted to to the buzz of a job well done….a true workaholic I suppose (although I am very conscious of that and am careful to keep some semblance of balance in my life; if all I have to do is office work I am just as capable of finding some sort of recreation as anyone). I certainly had the opportunity to do anything I wanted as I was near or at the top of my class through high school and university. The pull of a satisfying and essential occupation was stronger than the dollars…although I do plan to get rich this year.
I have often mused that part of the reason that agriculture doesn’t seem to pay very well is that as farmers we are willing to hang on and keep farming for way too few dollars because we don’t want to give up the positive nature and satisfaction of a career in agriculture. Maybe, in some ways, that’s fair but there are certainly many days when the work load, stress level and constant uphill battle make me wonder (There! I just got my weekly farmer whine off of my chest!).
So I will spend a lot of time in the office planning crops, ordering seed and supplies and generally dreaming about and plotting to make 2021 way better than 2020. Luckily as humans we have the ability to quickly forget most bad experiences and as farmers we are true gamblers at heart. When the game isn’t in full swing in the winter months we forget previous troubles, gain confidence, and roll the dice one more time.
From my comfy office chair;
Keep eating your veggies.