Labor Day in the U.S. marks the official end of summer and a transition to more indoor activities. For many it means things are slowing down a bit and thoughts start to turn towards the holiday season. While that may be true for much of the country, for those in Kansas agriculture, and depending on the weather, it’s just another day in the office.
Rather than discuss some weighty societal topic or agronomic concern, today let’s take a moment to remember all the hard work and countless hours put in by everyone from the field to the plate that insures we have an abundant, safe, and reliable food supply. As we consider and take a moment to celebrate a holiday honoring the average worker and the struggle over the course of this country’s history for fair treatment, consider the farmer and rancher.
In many if not most cases throughout the history of this country, those producing our food, fiber, and fuel were and are in a unique position. In simple terms, economics breaks the factors of production into four broad areas: land, labor, capital, and management. Ideally, the average American worker (labor) can go to those above them (management) to air grievances, seek raises, vacation, etc. Management deals with making sure rules are followed, benefits issued and son on. Those on the farm and ranch normally have a slightly different perspective.
One of the factors making agriculture unique in the business world is the concept of management and labor. In the majority of instances, the manager is also the labor and a great deal of the labor is related by birth or marriage to the management. Things are a bit different if the labor pool consists of your sons and daughters, if when you go to complain to management it’s mom and dad. Then throw in dealing with living organisms, crops and livestock that don’t understand a clock, calendar, or overtime. Farmers and ranchers can’t go out to the field or pen and simply say today’s a holiday or it’s after 5 pm so could you please not need feeding or irrigation today.
The purpose of this piece isn’t for the general public to feel sorry for or pity those producing and processing our food supply but to understand the difference of how most of us live our lives compared to those producing our agricultural commodities. Actually, we should probably envy them for they enjoy something that too many of us don’t. In spite of a bit of complaining from time to time they are in a position to say something many should be jealous of, “I wouldn’t want to do anything else.” Their advantage over most of us is they not only have a “job” but a way of life that are the same thing.