Midwest Producer Jan. 2, 2009 Edition
by Cliff Morrow
In the past week I read a short column about a famous actor who related a story about his first job. He said that at 21 years of age, he had finally got an acting job and for the first time in his life, time had no meaning. He enjoyed it so much that the clock was irrelevant.
That was an epiphany for me. It explains the thinking of most of the people who read this column across the great states of Kansas and Nebraska. Growing up in rural areas, whether working on the clock or not, or whether living on a farm or not, there is a mentality that says the job is the important thing. The time on the clock means nothing. As a farmer, you are fully aware, that if the seed doesn’t get placed into the ground at the right moment or during the right window of opportunity, there will be no crop to harvest or at best it will be greatly reduced. So the threat of bad weather that could cause a rain delay of a few days or even a few weeks will keep you on the tractor for as long as it takes to get done planting.
The same thing applies to the fertilizer, and cultivating, and spraying, and the mowing, and the baling and the list goes on. Each job, in turn, has its time or season to finish. You can’t look at the clock. The job needs to get done no matter what the dial on your wrist might say.
Almost everything we do as farmers is governed by the weather. We try to beat rain, or we pray for it. We buy hail insurance in case there is bad weather. We buy sprinklers in case it doesn’t rain. We buy crop insurance in case it does rain, too much…or because it might not rain enough.
Then fall comes and we forsake all things to keep the machinery running. The clock doesn’t matter. It’s your livelihood at stake here.
Every conversation up town starts with a question. “Are you done planting, or picking corn?” “Did you get the hay put up before the rain?” “Are you done calving yet?” No one asks if you’re working too many hours. What are they really asking? They are asking if the job is done yet. Because our ‘clock,’ is a calendar.
I remember my Dad in a discussion he had with one of his neighbors back in the 1960’s. Our hogs were on a dry lot and Dad had switched from ground corn to a pelletized feed. It was a complete ration and got the hogs to market a couple of weeks faster. It was a pretty high powered ration for back in those days and more expensive feed than a grinder mixer would produce. The discussion was about feed and Dad was sharing this news with the neighbor. “You might be able to get your hogs to market a month sooner.” Our neighbor replied, “Art, time means nothing to a hog.”
Time means nothing to farm folks either I would guess.
We often hear of large companies wanting to expand into the Midwest because of the work ethic of our citizenry. That might be another way of saying we don’t watch the clock around these parts. We watch the calendar instead.