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Second Jobs Are Second Nature For Ranchers

sorting-calves.jpg “More than half of America’s farmers work a job off the farm to make ends meet, according to USDA figures. Throughout the country, farmers open up their land to tourists, set up roadside stands and travel the farmers’ market circuit, but they also moonlight as mechanics, pool cleaners and even authors. They teach college courses and sell feed, work at banks and own businesses in order for the farm to survive,” writes Cody Winchester for the Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader in a recent article entitled, "For Farmers, Second Jobs Becoming Second Nature."

I recently ran across this article and thought it pretty much summed up my life. For example, writing and speaking provide me the opportunity to pursue my involvement in production agriculture. This means working around chores and making arrangements for the cattle when I need to travel. Luckily, living and working alongside my parents makes things a lot simpler, but I know many out there who don’t have that extra support. As I meet and network with more BEEF Daily readers across the country, I’m discovering that many farmers and ranchers moonlight in other careers to help keep the family operation afloat.

A few of my old classmates at South Dakota State University were featured in the article, including Jason Frerichs. He’s a 26-year-old state legislator who will be senate minority leader next session, in addition to being a teacher and agriculture adviser at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown and a farmer who raises crops and cattle with his family. Talk about a busy schedule! And, I know Frerichs isn’t alone in his capacity to work several jobs to pursue his ultimate passions in production agriculture.

“The trend of farmers taking on other jobs to help pay bills hardly is new, but the figure has grown from 55% in 2002 to 65% in 2007,” according to the article.

“It’s not so much finding the time as making the time. For me, it’s a way of life,” adds Jeremy Lehrman, a 28-year-old farmer, cattleman and feed salesman from Canova, SD. “It’s something I grew up doing, and it’s something I want my kids to grow up around.”

Obviously, no two operations are alike. Everyone has a unique story of how their farm or ranch survives and thrives into the next generation. What’s your story? How do you support your family and the farm? What creative things are you doing to make ends meet?