The Planted Row: Producer-consumer gap is growing

Stan Wise Farm Forum Editor
Farm Forum

When I was growing up, farmers were always ready to help someone in need, and everyone understood and appreciated that fact.

If you had a flat tire without a spare on hand or if you ran off the road and got stuck in the middle of the night, you simply walked to the nearest farmhouse, knocked on the door, and very politely asked for help.

You didn’t have to worry about angering the farmers. They seemed to relish the opportunity to help a soul in need. They’d put on some overalls, crank up the tractor, and have you out of the ditch in no time.

No money changed hands. A simple handshake and some heartfelt thanks were all that was required.

You can bet those farmers also knew the situation of everyone in the community. If an older person lived alone on a fixed income or if a family had fallen on difficult times, those farmers would help them out as often as they could.

My grandfather owned a small gas station and grocery store in addition to his farm, so when someone had a sick child in the middle of the night and needed some medicine, they would wake him up and ask him to open the store.

He always did.

That feeling of safety, of knowing that someone would help you out if you ever got in trouble, was one of the best parts about living in a rural community. People in the community understood just how much the local farmers helped others, and the farmers didn’t worry so much about equipment or supplies disappearing from the farm.

Those days seem to be fading quickly into the past.

This week a heavy duty trailer was stolen from my family’s farm. My father posted a photo of the trailer on social media to ask if anyone had seen it in the community. I was shocked by the number of people who said they, too, had trailers, ATVs, tractor batteries, etc. stolen from their farms.

The unspoken contract between farmers and the rest of the community seems to be eroding. I don’t know what’s causing it. Maybe it’s because there are fewer farmers or that farms have become larger (and are therefore less personal). Maybe it’s because poverty rates and drug use are climbing in rural areas. (Methamphetamine use is particularly high in my home county.)

Whatever the reason is, I think it’s safe to say that it’s time to take farm security seriously. My father has security cameras on the farm, but they haven’t been much use in recovering his trailer. He said he now plans to install GPS trackers on some of his equipment.

It’s bad enough that farmers have to deal with low commodity prices and the rising cost of inputs, but they now have to spend money on farmyard security.

The disconnect between farmers and everyone else seems to be growing. Never before has the need for consumer education been so great. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. It’s time to make basic ag education a requirement for high school graduation. Maybe if more people understood the challenges involved in producing food, they would be less likely to drive off with farmers’ equipment in the middle of the night.