Generally speaking, farmers are uneducated. And yet they are the most brilliant people I know. (Someday, I’ll talk about how stubborn they are too.)
If you were to ask the average farmer what their highest level of education is, they would most likely check the box that says “high school education.” It is a bit more common now for the younger generation of farmers to have a college degree. But I am willing to bet that their parents and grandparents don’t have those degrees hanging on the wall.
And yet, these uneducated farmers are the most intelligent people I have ever come across. I have spent my entire life and career surrounded by farmers. It never ceases to amaze me how darn smart they are and how they seem to find a way to overcome even the toughest of challenges in an extremely volatile environment. No piece of paper can represent the importance and the difficulty of the thankless work they do.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not meant to condemn the value of an education. No one believes in education more than me. The degrees that I earned are some of my proudest accomplishments. I am one of the weird people who actually loved school and secretly misses being in school. Rather, this is meant to celebrate the people who feed, clothe and provide for the world through the most respectable job there is – farming. It is meant to make you pause and think about your perception of a person who is, by our standards, uneducated. I am no genius, but I am smart enough to know that being an educated person does not make me any better or any smarter than an uneducated person. It does make me qualified for certain career paths and, of course, establishes credibility . . . after all, that’s the whole point of earning it.
My husband earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Truman State University (go Bulldogs), knowing the entire time he was in college that he wanted to farm. Friends would often ask him what he wanted to do after college. After responding that he wanted to farm, they would almost always ask, “Then why are you going to college?” It is true that you don’t need a college degree to join your family’s farm. But the education he received, experience he gained and connections he made in college have served him very well.
If you were to write a curriculum for an aspiring farmer today, I think you would find that the program would include economics, finance, accounting, grain marketing, animal science, biology, engineering, data analytics and diesel mechanics to name a few. And it would need to include a 10 year residency with your father, the head farmer.
If you get right down to it, farmers hold the knowledge needed to survive. This isn’t your great-grandpa’s farm anymore. Without agriculture, no other industry would matter. The world we live in today is full of disconnect . . . disconnect between farmers and non-farmers. I challenge everyone to look around their lives and think about not only where their food comes from, but how so many of the products we use in our everyday lives are made possible because of farmers.
You know what they say, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.