I saw an internet meme recently of a tractor riding across a sunset horizon that said: ‘During harvest farmers give up meals at their tables so we can have meals at ours’.
If there is one thing that I think the CAT participants are learning from both their farm placement experiences and the stories that are shared when we tour farms in our area it’s this:
Farmers are givers.
Getting up and retiring with the sun, labouring in the heat, mucking about in the rain, planning and re-planning through the off-season (if they have one), trying yet another new approach after strings of failures…all this energy and focused attention towards manifesting; from seeds and earth, in flock and herd; the nourishing offerings humbly marketed to a fickle and often oblivious community.
Knocked down by pests, diseases, market fluctuations, drought, flood, climate change, high land costs, conflicting regulatory systems, and much, much more, they get up again and again and continue to give.
Studies in neurology have shown that giving literally is its own reward, physically through ‘feel good’ biochemical releases in the brain. So this, combined with a beautiful relationship with the land and the satisfaction of a bountiful harvest must somehow explain the innate nature of a farmer to GIVE. Because frankly other more tangible rewards such as money, recognition, security, and freedom are significantly less measurable when it comes to farming. Trust me, the interns have noticed this and feel somewhat apprehensive. They are drawn to farm, drawn to give, but they also want to survive and thrive. They see how hard their farm mentors are working, how much they are giving, and the disconnect in how farming is valued in our society.
There is no doubt that farming is an ongoing commitment to give, and any successful farmer (meaning they stick with it, not that they are rolling in $$$) will have that essential attribute of being a giver. However the fact that it’s in their nature to give does not justify the mindless taking of all that our local farmers provide without appreciative recognition of their many obstacles. There must be measurable action towards sharing the risks and co-creating better systems where farmers can earn a meaningful livelihood growing and giving rather than the self-sacrificial labour of unrequited love that seems to be the current state of affairs.
These valid concerns arise as our program participants learn theory and experience the practical aspects of the local agricultural sector. It is something that we must address head on if we expect the younger generations to enthusiastically take up farming, which we desperately need them to do.
It’s fantastic to celebrate that Farmers are givers, but they must be receivers too. Otherwise the well that these hard working folks draw from will inevitably run dry and there will be nothing left to give.
-Stephanie Cottell, Cowichan Agricultural Training Program Supervisor