I am not what you would call a ‘Facebook Fanatic.’ I only joined this past winter to connect with a friend who had moved. My personal picture is of the canning in my cold room last fall. I don’t post pictures, give a minute-by-minute account of my life, nor check in daily. I rarely comment on posts from others. It is not a necessary part of my life.
This morning, however, a friend in Alberta posted the following: “We pay doctors to make us better when we should be paying farmers to keep us healthy.” It is credited to FitLife.TV and a wonderful observation, I thought.
Scanning the comments, my euphoria quickly disappeared. The second comment went: “Farmers don’t care about health LOL. Just $$$$$$$$$$$$.” Sadly it was followed by many thumbs up, an indication of how misunderstood farming is.
I started thinking, why does Ms. Facebook not understand Mr. Farmer when it comes to money? Consider this.
Ms. Facebook receives her paycheque and, unless she has worked above her 40-hour work week or got a raise, she knows to the penny what it is.
Mr. Farmer gets a cheque in the mail from his marketing board, sale barn, grain dealer, etc and as he opens it a million questions flash through his mind: Have prices fallen, was his product the quality he thought, were there enough buyers to support good prices? He has zero guarantee that, after putting in a 70-hour week (more if it is planting, harvesting, calving/lambing/farrowing, etc.), that what he receives will cover his expenses plus his family’s needs.
Ms. Facebook skips over deductions for pensions, employment insurance, and health insurance, all matched by her employer. All are taken for granted. Dental work, kid’s braces, glasses and contact lenses, as well as care by non-OHIP specialists, are paid for. If her company folds, she gets taxpayer money to help in finding another job. When she retires, a nice pension awaits.
Mr. Farmer looks at his deductions, charges for administration, advertising, research, insurance, grading, cleaning, transportation, etc., and of course the inevitable HST just to name a few. None directly benefit him, taking a few more dollars from his pocket, yet they all keep rising.
Ms. Facebook knows her paycheque covers her expenses: Rent/mortgage, home, life insurance, car payments, hydro, telephone, cable, Internet, etc. They are fairly set each month. Unless car or house repairs are needed, she knows there is money left over for herself.
Mr. Farmer considers the pile of bills on the office desk: Feed, minerals, bedding, vet and breeding if he has livestock, seed, fertilizer, pesticides, equipment loans, equipment rentals, diesel fuel, building, machinery and equipment upkeep and repair, parts, electricity and telephone. Mortgages, operating loans and credit cards form a separate pile. He hasn’t hit the house and family expenses yet, a list that is the same as the ‘regular’ guy. Now one kid is making noises of wanting to join the business. Can the farm support another million or so debt to expand and give his family an income?
Ms. Facebook books her next vacation, two weeks in the prime holiday time at the ‘in’ place and starts planning what she will need to buy.
Mr. Farmer looks at the bit left over, wonders if they can stretch it to cover a week somewhere off the farm, plus hire someone to come in and care for the livestock, do chores, etc. That is, if that old, cantankerous piece of machinery, that should have been replaced last year, holds together for one more go. He grins.
The family calls it a vacation, but to him it is just a constant worry when he is away from the farm for an extended period about what might, no, what will go wrong. Not much chance to relax.
Ms. Facebook heads to the grocery store, mumbling about ‘rich farmers’ as she fills her basket with vegetables, fruits, cheeses and meats from half way around the world.
Mr. Farmer and his wife still supply much of their fruit and vegetables from their own garden when they can. They used to have their own meat too but the government added too many hoops to jump through for on-farm slaughter and shipping an animal almost two hours and back to eat it at home makes no sense. Heck, even most dairy farms buy their milk and cream now. Trips to the grocery store are spent trying to find Canadian-made produce to support fellow farmers.
It seems the grocery stores prefer to showcase imports!
So yes, Mr. Farmer does think and care about dollars, but not how Ms. Facebook imagines. If only she knew the truth and how ignorant she made herself look.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.