Earlier this year, I asked readers to provide their definitions for what qualifies a person as a farmer or rancher. This was in response to a reader comment that I had disagreed with. The topic turned into such a hot discussion that it was also expanded into an opinion piece in the September issue of BEEF magazine, which was my first opinion column in the magazine! Since that article went to print, I have received several emails from the readers on this topic. I have included a sampling of the comments below. I invite you to weigh in and add your own.
-Amanda, I appreciate what you are doing with your career choices. I am new to the beef business after 30 years in dairy. I sold my registered Holsteins in 2007 and have been blessed with a new career teaching Vo-Ag. The comments from the person who was strongly offended by your definition of a career in agriculture struck me and moved me to respond. She is certainly entitled to her opinion, but having just taught about agriculture careers, I have to say all careers related to agriculture are important. It will take all of us to feed the world in the years to come. I DO NOT encourage my students to consider a career according to his/her definition, but there remains a vast number of careers related to agriculture to pursue. Your reader may not consider me a farmer, but everyone at my high school, from administrators to my students, know that my heart is on the farm first, as much as I do love my job. I think you probably feel the same way, after reading some of your posts. I receive your daily blog, and quite often enjoy some of the articles. Thanks for what you are attempting to do.
-I don't entirely disagree with you, though I do have my own opinion. A rancher makes a living for himself and his family strictly livestock ranching, without extra support from a job in town, etc. Likewise, a farmer makes a living for himself strictly farming, with no extra income. A farmer/rancher does both. The reason I firmly believe this is the fact that the area I live in is being cut up and sub-divided into "ranches." Everybody buys a parcel and has a "ranch." These are not ranches unless you can raise a family and make a living solely ranching them. Just because you have a 20-acre "ranch" does not make you a rancher. Just because you have an ag-related job does not make you a rancher.
-Your column in the September issue of BEEF made me think a bit. Results: Aargh! These people make me shake my head! First, I would conclude that the folks who responded to you earlier essay are a bit down-trodden and depressed, probably because their own children fled the ranch in favor of some job in town. My question for them would be: Why didn't you put together a business plan that would allow your children to stick around, grow the business, have happy lives and contribute to the rural community where you live? Frankly, I never get too balled up by nasty comments from unhappy people. Usually their real difficulty looks at them each morning in the mirror. Onward: this business of defining a rancher. One of my chief gurus is Stan Parsons. Stan grew up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and eventually became one of the foremost thinkers, philosophers and consultants in the American ranching industry. One of my favorite quotes from Stan goes like this: "The only difference between a hobby and a business is that a business is designed and managed with the intent of making a profit."