I Just Don’t Get Farmers

My Dad was raised by a Farmer. I think he considered himself a farmer. And yet when he came to Canada he did everything, including farming. I loved my Dad but he had some issues. He was kind of an only child. He had a half brother who was 16 years his senior. My Dad was a product of the second marriage. I don’t want to get into it but there was a little hanky panky going on before the first wife actually died. Enough about that skeleton. Turns out every generation is basically the same when it comes to sex. Anyways… My Dad came to Canada to prove to his parents he was capable of standing on his own two feet. He was a hard worker but in the end he was a schlep-rock. You know that character on the Pebbles and Bam Bam show? The fellow who had an Eyore type personality and there was a raincloud over his head all the time? Shit went sideways for my Dad quite often. But he did everything and anything to keep his family fed. He was educated in Denmark and taught in a College there but here he was nothing as is the case for most immigrants. So he worked as a carpenter and also as a hired hand on a farm and eventually drove a school bus, sold insurance, was a grain buyer for the United Grain Growers and finally ended his career as an Agricultural Fieldman. He was always taking classes and going to school but in the end he just wanted to farm. He sold the farm when times were tough. We didn’t have a lot of land but it hurt him. I never lived on the farm but I remember quite a lot about it. Mainly picking rocks but also plucking chickens. But that was in the back yard. It wasn’t anything I ever dreamed of because although I was born and raised in many small towns in southern Alberta, I am an urban creature. A city gal. I am a restaurant snob and I love live music. So… rural life just isn’t my thing.

Early in my marriage my hubby commented that he always wanted to farm. Luckily that didn’t come up in the dating time because we never would have been married. Even a few years into the marriage when we were looking to buy a house he thought perhaps it would be cheaper to buy in the small town we were from. I wasn’t really “From” there. I lived there for six and a half years. His Grandparents were settlers so his roots were deeper. I nixed that idea pretty quickly. It was okay while I was there but there was no way I was living in a small town. My daughter Drew always thought she was small town. Born and raised city she was married when she moved to a small town. I guess it was really a city but technically, for our purposes, it was rural. Very small town Alberta. She is back in the city and loving life. She did meet some great people but she just wasn’t the same. She was part of the city melting pot and her attitude showed. Last week I golfed with a Gal in my ladies group who has been married for fourty nine years to a fellow from my hubby’s home town. She was raised city and moved to the small town. She missed the city but there was no way her husband would ever leave the small town. As she put it, “He couldn’t leave his friends”. That is another thing. Even though I had friends from the same small town, once we started to date we only saw my husbands friends. Mine went by the way side. And we didn’t hang with the same crowds. So although I tried to assimilate he never really made the effort. Maybe this gal loved her husband more than I loved mine. In the end though, my husband has lived an incredibly varied life while hers hangs with people he went to kindergarten with. He is 72. Its not wrong. It’s just not for me.

Awhile back my brother in law, who is a farmer asked why I didn’t invest in land. We had rental properties over the years and frankly I am done with renters. They say stick with what you know and I just don’t know farmland. But from what I do see, Farmers have a buy and hold mentality. Acquire land and just keep it. Now that has always been part of my strategy investing in the stock market but over time duds get sold and the portfolio changes. Another acquaintance, a farmers wife lamented one day how she always wanted a cabin. A place to spend time with the grandkids. She was quite jealous of my summer place. Turns out I am lucky. Her husband always says they can’t afford it. Now she is a retired teacher on a full pension. Her son farms with her husband. The word on the street is that they are rolling in it. So I suggested they sell some land in order to buy a summer place. She was shocked. Farmers don’t sell land. Turns out the land is collateral when you need money from the bank. Well, who knew? By that logic why not borrow money against the land and buy a cabin. When I broached the subject with this ladies sister she explained it further. The land was given to you by your parents. It takes care of you and then you pass it on to the next generation. Makes sense I guess but do you need to buy more and more for your kids? That I don’t get.

After golf years ago my husband and I ended up having lunch with a group of his friends in the clubhouse restaurant. One of the wives was going on and on about China. The Chinese had stopped buying Canadian canola and she was mad. I am assuming they grew a lot in their farming operation. I suggested that perhaps they try growing something else. You know. Something someone wanted to buy. Obviously a simple and uneducated answer to the problem. Needless to say, I got the cold shoulder the rest of the lunch. I am not stupid. I understand that it is more complicated than how I made it seem, but I have been berated all too often for my personal consumer views. I buy organic whenever possible. Turns out that is stupid. My non organic farmer acquaintances do not like my stance against modern farming practices. As for grass finished beef, again I hear all about how farmers love their beasts dearly and only treat them medically when needed. That is great. However, if your cow goes anywhere near a feedlot before slaughter, I don’t want to eat it. One dairy farmer actually told me grass finished beef doesn’t even taste good. I am not a beef lover so when I want a burger I head to Harveys. They have been serving up veggie burgers since long before it became fashionable. Whether it is meat, dairy, poultry and eggs, or produce my stance is the same. I buy organic, humanely produced, local if possible, then Canadian if I can, and finally during the years of the American 45th President, anything not American. My personal boycott against someone I didn’t care for. My ketchup comes from the Czech Republic. In the end its simple economics. Micro econ 101. Supply and demand. Don’t tell me why I am stupid if I don’t buy your product. Grow something I want to buy.

Through my years of mixing with farmers wives it is clear that “the farm” is like another person. One high school acquaintance I know travels lots with her girlfriends because her husband won’t leave the farm. That is big with farmers. She did make it quite clear she uses her “own” money for travel. She has a full time job. She doesn’t take funds out of the farm. That I don’t understand at all. It seems almost everyone I know who is a farmers wife works off the farm. One common theme in conversation with farmers is how rich the next guy happens to be. Discussions always revolve around which farmer is doing better. It’s funny, in my urban middle class neighbourhood we seldom discuss which neighbour has more money. On a personal note close friends discuss. A few of us are widows and we do share a bit about where we see ourselves in the future. There was the one girl down the street who was widowed young and someone close to her embezzled money. That was discussed lots! At the time anyways.

Now there are many who like to travel down south. They spend months in Arizona. Perhaps it is because they miss most of summer up here so they go somewhere warm to recuperate. I am not huge into travel and I struggle with excessive heat so the desert isn’t my idea of fun. And I like shorter vacations. A couple of weeks somewhere is good. I think lately the whole covid thing has really driven my farmer friends crazy. They rely on their getaways for warmth, relaxation and social activities. The people my husband grew up with do yearly group trips. Not one. Not two. Many… The golf trip after harvest. A month in Palm Springs. January trip to somewhere warm. Mexico for awhile. Everywhere they go they either meet up with someone from home or go with someone from home. My sister in law once spent an hour complaining about everyone on the latest golf trip She was angry at pretty much everything. At the end of the tirade she sweetly said “You should come next time.” Yeah Right! It seems as if tradition and habit are the name of the game. I get bored too quickly. I loved Palm Springs the first time I went. It was such a great trip. A few years later it was just boring. Nothing new really. Same old same old.

It may sound like I hate farmers. That isn’t the case. Like the title says I just don’t get them. Mind you I don’t get a lot of people. I love my sister in laws husband T but I only see him a few times a year. He is a partly retired farmer. His life changed dramatically when my sister in law died. He has been a great outlet for me as well as helpful with the grief. He knows what I am going through. But I am not part of his scene man. The common friends? They were my husbands friends. They didn’t dump me. In fact many reached out so much and still do. I wasn’t like them before and our common link, my husband, isn’t there now. Golf drew me into the rural community after my husband passed. It filled a void and helped me move forward. After two years I believe I am ready to move on. I do appreciate those who helped me with my healing but in the end I am urban. What people say about rural communities is true. Tight knit. Slower paced. Everybody knows everybody. Peaceful. More space between neighbours. Less traffic. Less pollution. Some can be seen as negative though. Everybody knows everybody. Yuck. And there may be less air pollution but mother earth is dying due to modern day conventional farming practices. I know my friend T is just a little lonely out there on that farm. My home in the city is like a little town plopped down in the middle of a large city. I can walk three blocks to the local shops. Lots of parks and bike/walking trails. I live up the hill from a major highway that passes through the city. There is a low hum of traffic you can hear sometimes. The river and brush area run alongside that highway. There are ball diamonds, tennis courts, soccer fields and outdoor hockey rinks. The river valley is alive with wildlife and people. One thing this city did right was protect many natural areas from development. We don’t know everyone here but when my son was playing in a City final hockey game the arena was jammed to the rafters with supporters. The other team was a little overwhelmed. It wasn’t even in our community but all the hockey people showed up to support. That is my community.

When my daughter lived two hours from Calgary a group of women decided to come to town to see a performance of some kind. They were making a night of it with a dinner as well. One of the husbands drove them in a large van so they could let loose. My daughter described her feelings that night as they neared the city. The skyline as it came into view, her feeling of coming home, the traffic, the lights, the people and the hustle and bustle. She was excited and full of happiness as they made their way through the city to their final destination. This was her hometown. Her turf. Her memories of growing up. The rest of the members didn’t see what she saw. They hated all that was meaningful to her. The traffic. The busyness. There is a fear of the big city. Not knowing where you are going. How to get around. I get that but when you live somewhere it isn’t scary at all. Yesterday I was driving across the city and I needed to stop for some cash and a coffee. My first stop led me past where I would normally cross into the downtown area. So I continued along a different main street, flipped around through a neighbourhood, came out on a major road and immediately crossed the river and turned onto the road that led me to the area I was seeking. Anyone driving with me would have been utterly confused. I love my city. I love its diversity and its charm. It is my comfort and it is my home. There are memories. There is familiarity. There are people I love.

My home is very inner city. My husband and I would often walk along the river to restaurants we loved in the city core, or downtown area. There is a turn off that leads to my community that sits at the top of a hill. At night when we come home the view is so spectacular. The entire skyline is lit up and seems to beckon to us. My children feel an intense emotion when they see that sight. On Sunday nights when we would return home from the cabin, the view brought us a sense of peace. Home. I love going to the cabin in the mountains. No cable. No internet. Lots of books, movies, games and puzzles. But I can’t live there. Just like I can’t live in the country. The last two years taught me a lot about friends who live in the country and make their living on the land. One young lass who drove the beer cart on the golf course made a an interesting comment that made me think. She wasn’t rural. She lived on an acreage. She was different than her farm friends. There has always been a divide with rural and urban. And also rural and farmer. Not the same.

City folk think the farmers are too heavily subsidized. The farmers think the city folk should be a little more appreciative about where their food comes from. As for me, I vote in elections for people I believe are aligned with my views. Whoever gets elected, I trust to take care of that sort of thing. I have other things to do. On a personal level I support farming practices that suit my needs. My yogurt comes from a farm 90 minutes from my home. Chicken, eggs, veggies and greens, an hour away. Even the baked goods are made locally. Some organic, some not. In the end I may pay higher prices but at least someone out there is making what I want. Some things have to come from elsewhere. I can’t live without bananas and pineapple. But keeping cash in my local economy is important. These operations are small scale and there are risks for them as in any business, but I am glad they exist. I have never forgotten my fathers views on Monsanto. The producers of Round-Up. It was almost fifty years since it came onto the market and my Dad trashed talked that company my whole life. Or rather his. As an Agricultural fieldman he saw so many chemical abuses and misuses. There is a reason the bees are dying.

In the end I will head to my cabin where I am rebuilding my raised vegetable beds with recycled cedar boards. They are thirty years old but look new after planing. Save money, save landfill space. Grow organic food as pesticides are banned in the community. I will spend time with Grandkids at the lake. I won’t have the hassle of renters. I won’t worry about who has more money. I will have the peaceful calm life I have built. One where I don’t need to escape. And maybe I will try out a golf league in the city. There will be less city trash talk I am sure but it will still be a lesson in life. After all it will still be a ladies league. And I have learned they are an interesting bunch no matter where they live.

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