Farmers, stereotypes, and intelligence

My post yesterday about my farming goals for 2010 touched off a little firestorm over on Facebook, where it appears that people believed that my stereotype about farmers is that they are not intelligent. I probably should have been more specific, because my stereotype about farming was really about the kind of work I imagined everyday farming was all about rather than how smart anyone was.

It is interesting to me, however, that people seem to think that the stereotype about farmers is that they are not smart. Of course, as with any stereotype, it is unfair to label an entire group any certain way, yet we cannot avoid the fact that there is some reason there is a stereotype to begin with.

So far in my experience, I think the stereotype of the “dumb farmer” exists because of something entirely unrelated to intelligence: too many farmers have no business sense, and it is their lack of business sense that causes them to lose their farms and helps create the impression they are not very smart.

No other industry would continue to tolerated the rather bizarre state of affairs one finds in farming where the government keeps prices for the products of that industry artificially low and fixed through constant subsidy while simultaneously expecting the businesses in that industry to borrow every year to produce products whose prices barely cover paying off the debt at the end of the year. Further, this cycle does not have to exist, but continues to do so because farmers simply keep doing it year after year.

The evidence of the difference lies in the fact that there are all kinds of farmers out there who have rejected this model and are doing quite well for themselves as a result. In every case I can think of, the farmers who have broken the cycle have done so because they treat their farms like businesses and figure out how to remain profitable just like any other business has to.

What causes the stereotype, then, is the force of habit of continuing to do things a way they have been done long after it does not make sense to keep doing them that way. What I have come to realize is that there is no reason to do them that way because there is really no reason to farm in any other way than the one that works for the farmers and generates a profit. Coming into this business from the outside, I am in a unique position to simply not go down the path that seems to dominate so many farmers’ lives and fortunes, and in doing so, I have come to realize that even I had stereotypes about farmers and farming that I did not even realize I had.


9 thoughts on “Farmers, stereotypes, and intelligence

  1. Anyone who is capable of writing such inane incoherence is not in a position to be critical of any profession. I would suggest you may make a good civil servant !

  2. John,

    While I appreciate your comment, I would suggest a few things to add some context to it and to the post you’re trashing:

    – First, this post is a companion to an earlier post on the same subject, and so will make a lot more sense in context with that post.
    – Second, my post can only be fairly understood to apply to the context of American industrial farming in 2010.
    – Third, while what I wrote may very well be inane, it is hardly incoherent if I do say so myself.
    – Fourth, previous to being a farmer, I was in fact a civil servant. Good catch.
    – Fifth, and very much to the point, I am now a farmer and so am in a very good position to make such judgments.

    In any case, I hope you continue reading and busting my chops when I may need it.


  3. well, i think that you are a a** hole and you need to get a life because your kids are starving and farming is not the job for you because again your family is starving and i have something to say to say to you “f*** you”

  4. Monica,

    Well, you are entitled to your opinion, but I can assure you that no one I know is starving as far as I know and, despite your claim to the contrary, farming is very much for me because I’m doing it.

    I am, however, extremely curious about why you felt the need to be both so vociferous and so sure about something you clearly know absolutely nothing about–that is me, farming, or my children. Further, I wonder if you actually read this post or its predecessor before making your comments. While you are completely within your rights to disagree with my statements and conclusions, it generally reflects on a person better if she makes informed comments.

    Then again, I may be refuting a spambot, in which case the joke is clearly on me.

  5. I think too many people have too little of understanding of what actual business intelligence and education a farmer must have. Let us not forget that these men and women who help work to put the groceries in our stores and food in our bellies do not recieve the luxuries of any “normal” paying job. As I recall and can say from experience, farmers do not recieve vacation days or can not call in sick. They have animals and crops to tend and machinery to fix. I have yet to see men and women in any other profession know as much about so much as the American farmer. They must be mathematicans, and scientists, mechanics, and even plumbers. They must also show fair amounts of animal husbandry skills along with specific knowledge of the laws and government regulations in effect. They must be salesmen and most importantly, they are and must be great businessmen. Farmers are well-rounded and hard working individuals. I take offense to anyone who tries to belittle them or take that away from them in that respect. In my opinion farmers are the hardest working people in America and recieve too little recognition for all they do.

  6. Sara, thank you for your comment. As a farmer (I have been farming full time for two years now, one year on my own), I agree with everything you are saying about what farmers should be, yet I cannot help but notice that your defense lumps all farmers into a stereotype just as surely as the one I discussed in this and a previous post did. There are many farmers who fall into all of the categories you mention, and there are quite a few who don’t.

    As a general comment to anyone reading this post, it is important to note that, again, I am actually farming, not just writing some off-the-cuff comment about farmers. Certainly, some of my stereotypes came from before I set myself on this course, and I went into this undertaking fully expecting some of my impressions to change. Indeed, that expectation was the purpose of the post and its predecessor to begin with.

  7. Pingback: Perceptions of Farmers | J O N A T H A N B A R K P H O T O G R A P H Y

  8. its official farmers are dumb.
    there is many surveys and articles proving that there for reasoning’s like high rates incest and autism and no other articles to defend it.

  9. While I doubt there are many, I’d be interested if you provide an example as a point of discussion.

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