The Dirt on Farming


Courtesy photo by Nutrien Ag Solutions - Breckenridge, MI

Farmer Wayne Callison unloads the harvested corn into a wagon. Callison is still working hard at 87 years old.

Jonathan Callison, Copy Editor/Graphic Designer


Illustration by Jonathan Callison

Every day, millions of Americans go to work. Whether they like their job or not, they go to work, make a certain wage, and come home and complain about how hard their day was. Many occupations are very hard such as the medical field, first responders, the military, etc. However, the people who feed America have one of the most difficult jobs out there.

   Farming is not an easy job in any sense. Many GLHS students agree with that. Comets’ Tale staff conducted a poll asking students if they thought farming was: easy, not easy nor hard, or hard. The results concluded that 45 out of 75 students thought farming is a hard job. They agree that farming is not just planting, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting, it is more than that. Farming takes year round planning and preparation. It is very stressful, but in the end there is a sense of accomplishment when all of the hard work pays off.

   “I love farming because it allows me to become one with the land,” senior William Woods said. “I enjoy running my equipment and the feeling of accomplishment when the day is over. Running my own farm is definitely hard, more because of the stress of buying equipment, making sure the crop gets in on time, and organizing labor.”

   It is one of the most challenging fields of work because of all of the factors that play a role in the occupation. Every job has components that make it difficult, but in farming they change and the farmer cannot determine what will happen. The number one thing that is the hardest to control is Mother Nature. It is hard to know what the weather is going to be, especially here in MI. Crops need to be in before the rain and need to be taken off when it is dry. Coming from a family that farms, mother nature is a factor that is always an issue.

   Max Katenhus, a farmer in Coleman, MI, is a man of few words. He elaborated on a few of the factors that make farming challenging.

   “Yes, mother nature is hard to control,” Katenhus said. “Repairs take up 20 percent of the time.”

   Another thing to worry about is maintenance. In order to get crops planted and taken care of, the farmer has to make sure equipment is ready before and during the season. Equipment, like tractors and combines, can break down at any time. The farmer will have to repair them or have a farm hand or mechanic fix them. Like Katenhus said, repairs take up some time.

   Closer to the end of the season, around the end of Oct. or Nov. is normally when the farmer will watch the prices of the crops. The prices for crops change everyday. One day the prices could be low and the next day they could be really high. The turnout of the crops, along with how much the crops are worth, will make or break the season.

   “Crop prices do make or break the season,” Katenhus said. “It’s so volatile. You can forward contract, I have done that the last few years to make sure I break even.”

I love farming because it allows me to become one with the land

— William Woods

   The farmers also have to worry about their expenses, Woods commented on expenses.

   “Expenses are a huge problem for me, I’ve spent all of my savings trying to make everything work right and run smoothly,” Woods said. “I can only afford older equipment which means breakdowns are inevitable leaving me no choice but to spend the money I’ve saved up.”

   These expenses include costs of the crop seeds, nitrogen, parts-required for repairs, fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides, lease or land payment, and sometimes water. The farmer cannot spend too much money or else the crop payout at the end of the season will not be enough to cover the expenditures.

   Lastly, sometimes a farmer has to worry about varmints. Varmints, such as raccoons, will damage and eat the crops, which figuratively eats a hole in the profits. The farmer will have to take care of them or have someone help with that problem.

   Farming is difficult in many ways. It is an important, hard, and thankless job. Next time, thank a farmer for their hard work, because their work is sitting on a plate at the dinner table.