Why Kids Leave The Farm.
I grew up on a 700-acre farm.
At the time, I had no interest in farming. To my teenage mind, farming was all work and no pay. Plus, I thought farmers were stupid. I could not wait to get the hell out of there.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. But farming wasn’t it.
One thing led to another and I found myself in the advertising business.
Advertising seem to be the home of “creativity”. I loved it.
I was a “neck-tie” guy. All my clients were necktie guys. Financial clients. Real estate clients. Jewelers. Mortgage brokers. Business owners.
No farmers ever hired me. Why should they? Most farmers have a large farm and only one client. They did not need more customers. The “one” client was Walmart, Costco or the commodities market. They sold “wholesale”. But note: the money is in retail.
If anyone asked me years ago, why kids left the farm, I would have said it’s the money.
Farmers can’t make any money. Right? Wrong. The market is the whole world. The market is HUNGRY three times a day. Farmers can and do make money.
But not all farmers make money. Some farmers foolishly get locked into bullshit propaganda that they “need” to do what everyone else is doing. They “need” to have a pig factory, or chicken factory, or cow factory.
Those things are not “farms”. They are stink factories. Pig poop, cow poop, chicken poop everywhere.
A real farm is sweet smelling. Full of life. Full of variety.
Stink factories are not full of variety. They are full of pathogens.
Stink factories don’t beg for creativity. They are locked into an assembly line formula of making pounds of meat as fast as possible.
The stink farm farmer is locked into a horrible mortgage, buying grains to feed the animals, buying shots and antibiotics, etc.
A sweet smelling farm is based on animals eating mostly grass. When they eat that natural diet, you don’t need shots and antibiotics so much. The meat tastes better. You can get a higher price for it. And you don’t need a mortgage to build a huge building to operate your assembly line operation.
If a kid leaves the farm because he does not see any money in the biz… It’s because his dad is selling to the one client. So his dad does not need much help. The “help” he needs is assembly line work. Not creative thinking.
But if you have many, many customers, you need the whole family involved in managing the farm and managing the customers buying preferences.
After a business life time of being in the advertising business… I picked up a book I’d been hauling around for 30 years. The book is called:
HOW TO GROW MORE VEGETABLES…
THAN YOU EVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE…
ON LESS LAND THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE.
The book is by John Jeavons. It came out in the 1970’s. I bought it then and it’s been on my shelf for years.
After 30 years… I finally saw something in Jeavons book I had missed all these years. I saw money.
Jeavons argues that the human body is still more efficient than any machine. He argues that using hand tools, you can get more yields per square foot than anything a tractor and combine can.
“Even at 50¢ per pound WHOLESALE, zucchini can bring as much as $18 to $32 per hour depending on the harvest time because it is easy to grow, maintain, and harvest.”
NOTE: These were 1970’s numbers. Inflation since then screams that you can make perhaps $100 per hour in growing zucchini.
On another page, Jeavons said…
“In 1973, we initially estimated that a 1-person small holding (1/8 to ½ acre) could grow crops bringing a net income of $5,000 to $20,000 a year (about $100 to $400 a week) after 4 to 5 years.”
He even references a fellow in Los Angeles who grossed $238,000 on ½ acre in 1990. (Updated Jeavons book).
Is there money to be made in farming? Only if people continue to be hungry.
But… modern day factory farms seems scary. The amount of capital needed to do factory farming goes to the moon.
Indebted farmers are not to be envied.
Why do kids leave the farm? I say it’s because kid’s father did not teach them about the kind of farming that does not need a banker’s help.
There are a few farmers around the country who gross as much as $100,000 consistently per acre. They don’t use tractors. It’s all handwork.
It’s not as much money as some Wall Street guys make. But it’s a nice living.
Raised bed. Compost. Mulch. And selling direct at retail prices. That’s the secret far too many farmers can’t teach their kids because they know nothing of it.
Kids leave the farm because Dad is secretly in debt to the bankers.
Kids leave the farm because the grass looks greener somewhere else. But it’s not greener.
Hey kids, if you leave the farm… don’t run to a cubicle. Just find another farm. Don’t buy a tractor. Buy a digging fork. And double-dig those bed.
Don’t be a salesman for a stock broker, real estate broker, mortgage broker… instead be a salesman for tasty tomatoes and delicious arugula.
Are farmers stupid… like I thought when I was 19? Some are. But farmers by and large have to deal with problems and solutions that would stump a necktie guy.
Animal health and mating behavior.
In truth… there is more creativity needed in farming than anything faced by an advertising creator.
At one time, 80% of the nation was involved in farming. Now, due to technology farmers come in at 2% of the population. And word on the street is… most farmers are over 60 years old. Where is the next generation?
It’s in the kids who left the farm.
Hey kids, come back. But don’t do things the way your daddy did. Don’t get involved in debt. Don’t buy a tractor. Use some Jeavons on your land.
Let’s talk about these things.