Farmer Stereotypes — True or False?

Growing up I have noticed that there are several stereotypes about farms and the farmers that live on them.  Some of these stereotypes revolve around the idealistic view of a farm, others are formed by interactions that people have had with farmers. The problem with stereotypes is that they lump an entire group of individuals together. There are a lot of farmers in the United States, in fact according to the USDA there are over 2.2 million of us!  While we share a love of the land, crops and livestock, we are also a very diverse group of people. I’d bet you could compare every farm in the US and find several things that are unique on each farm that sets them apart from the rest.

I wanted to talk about one stereotype in particular. For some reason, farmers have a bit of a reputation for being hard-headed and stubborn.   In all my years and all the farmers that I have met, I have come to the realization that this stereotype in particular is for the most part accurate.  I myself find myself unwilling to change something just because a salesman or agronomist tells me their way is superior.  After all if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right?  On that note, if something is broke, I will use my ingenuity to figure a way to fix it. Being stubborn and hard-headed frequently helps us get through really tough situations. Looking around me here in Ohio and the farmers I’ve met across the Midwest and in fact the U.S., I have to say I’m not exactly an outlier.

It never ceases to amaze me that so many people agree with my thoughts that farmers are a stubborn group. I can almost see the heads nodding and examples supporting my assertion that stubbornness is a characteristic we farmers share. At the same time, a lot of people think those same farmers will let themselves be manipulated by “big corporations” so easily.  This could not be further from the truth, farmers, like every other citizen will align themselves with organizations and groups that have similar values as them.  For instance, if I have a problem with a company that supplies seed to me I will seek out another seed company that I am satisfied with.  Agriculture has and will continue to allow for a diverse set of companies and organizations that will always work to supply a multitude of choices of food for the United States and the world.

No matter how stubborn I am or how sure I am that I farm the right way for me, I appreciate that my neighbors who farm with traditional methods or simply different methods are doing what’s right for them.

So let’s talk about the AgChat Foundation and where it fits into diverse world of agriculture. The Foundation’s is working to help farmers and ranchers share their voice and build relationships with others outside of agriculture.  The AgChat Foundation feels that this is important because people are interested about what happens on America’s farms, and nobody better to share this information than farmers themselves, after all they are experts of what happens on their farms.

Yes, as farmers we are experts about what happens on our farms and are willing to share that information by agvocating, but we are also stubborn and not willing to let others manipulate our viewpoints that we have formed over several generations.  This means no critic, skeptic, or even sponsor will change a farmer’s viewpoint.  On the other hand what will change a stubborn farmer’s view about his or her farm is the knowledge they gain from the relationships that are built with their customers that they connect with both online and off.

I believe in this so fervently I have put my personal time and money, along with others, into creating the Foundation and furthering its goal. I encourage you to do the same thing – it’s as easy as hitting the paypal button at the top left of this page. Through the efforts of the AgChat Foundation, we can help more farmers enter the conversation happening in social media and get more perspectives represented.

AgChat vice president Mike Haley

Mike Haley - Ohio, Farmer, Vice President

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Mike is a fifth generation grain and cattle farmer in northern Ohio. Mike believes not only in raising healthy crops and animals, but also working to ensure that future generations will be able to continue to do the same.  This not only means that Mike must continuously work to ensure that his farm is operating in a sustainable way, but also that others understand what farmers are doing on a daily basis to ensure that they are acting in a socially acceptable manner.  ”Social media is a valuable tool that allows us to communicate with others across the country about our farming operation while we are working on daily tasks.”

Comments

  1. I could not agree more. My farm has been in my family since 1856. Farming is in my blood. Many folks locally cannot accept this, as I am also part African-American. Our farm is Certified Organic, yet I am not a “hippie” either, not even a vegetarian! A chef, actually, and I do, in fact, enjoy interacting with people. We love to use technology, my kids are at the tops of their classes at school.
    I don’t fit into any of the “pre-cut” hats out there! But it’s fun to shatter people’s pre-conceived notions, and to have the chance to educated them about what we do.

  2. I largely agree, however the bit about being able to seek different suppliers and there being a diverse range of companies is just daydreaming – monsanto? hendrix genetics? Their share of the mnarket is phenomenal, and increasing as they rapidly merge with/swallow competitors. Chicken and milk producers find themselves stuck into contracts and debt with the people who supply and buy birds, or the dairies that buy the milk (in the uk). The tactics used are underhand, and farmers may not always have seen the end result coming. It’s not as simple as going elsewhere thesedays.

  3. Great post, Mike (and comment, Niechelle)
    The folks who write books (and dissertations) might have us believe that we all fit into one of three or four big boxes, and that if you’re not in my box, you’re against me. (large or small; local or scaled; organic or traditional; vegan or carnivore). As one who grew up on a small farm and now works for a large corporation (which inside it holds a phenomenal diversity of ideas, opinions and ideologies), I believe we should all work aggressively against being stuffed into those big boxes.
    Stay stubborn. Good work.

  4. Thanks for the great post Mike. My husband is exactly what you described. He has fired several nutritionists because they are just “trying to sell him something” Being bought is not something we like either. We will farm the way that is best for our family, land and animals and if a company fits into the goals, good, it not we part our separate ways. No feelings hurt.
    Those that think farmers can be bought by sponsorships have never been to a farm trade show. I have worked booths before and to get farmers to talk to you is worse than another demographic. :)
    AgChat’s efforts to be inclusive of all types of agriculture are honorable and this you should all be applauded for the time you give to such a great organization.

  5. Thanks Emily,

    I imagine most farmer’s spouses (including mine)would jump right in this conversation agreeing at how stubborn their spouse is. Saying that I would not be surprised if Tim would chime in here if in agreement if he could get away with it ;)

  6. Maru Whitmore says:

    It is very interesting how people’s idea of a farm is uninformed at times. As farmers, we do need to be more proactive on sharing what we do with people. Every farm is different and important in the equation.There will be things that one farm should specialize on according to their many variables. Building respectful relationships among farmers always helps us all achieve the objective of feeding the world.