Farming Is Not A Hip, New Trend

Farm Buildings | Photo: cwwycoff1/Flickr/Creative Commons License

You've met this person: They are a single, white, in their 20s, and live in a modestly-priced one-bedroom apartment in an affluent section of a metropolitan area. They keep their doors locked at night, but their windows are without bars. One night they recline on their Ikea couch, pull out their MacBook Air, and order a pizza from a local boutique (delivery). While waiting for dinner, they fire up their 94-inch plasma screen, get the surround sound levels just right, and pop in the first Blu-ray disc of "The Wire." They'll get hooked and watch the entire series in short order. After the finale, they'll spend the next month angrily railing against "the system," now an expert on inner city drug culture after watching 60 hours of TV.

This person, as we all know, is the worst. And it's exactly the kind of person that was running through my mind while reading last week's New York Times trend piece about the recent batch of post-grad college kids deciding to give this farm thing a try.

For instance, meet Sean Frazier, 23, Princeton grad. Until his senior year he wanted to get his Ph.D. in physics, a goal put on hold when he was bitten by the farming bug. His father did not consent to this change in plans, wishing he was doing "something more intellectual, or something that's harder." How Frazier himself put it:

"He thinks I should be using my math skills."

Which is infuriating on all sorts of levels. Do farmers not use math skills? Is there not a job in the entire industry where one can use math to create better crops? Or to lower costs of production? Or maybe figure out how to pay farm workers an actual living wage? Is the act of farming not hard?

Speaking of, another person to loathe in the piece:

"Farming appeals to me, and probably to other people, because it's simple and straightforward work outdoors with literal fruits from your labor," Mr. Bobman said. "It doesn't feel like you're a part of an oppressive institution."

Except, of course, it is one.

A study from the Department of Labor shows that farm workers have a median income level between $2,500 and $5,000, and that three-fourths earn less than $10,000 annually. Of those workers, only one-fourth have non-farm work earnings, meaning that below ten-grand number is all they've have to get through the year. And maybe this stat will hit home for the privileged post-college youths: Under half (49%) of farm workers own a vehicle.

Wonder how many of the college kids had to hitch a ride to the fields.

Which isn't to say there's no good to come out of this. College kids getting excited about the world of farming can only be considered positive: more exposure to it will inevitably lead to more exposure to the sordid underbelly, hopefully leading to attempts at educating the public and, hell, maybe even using "math skills" to fix the institution. But in unfortunate reality, most will end up quitting after getting their hands slightly dirty at fantasy farming camp.

The article ends with this quote of infuriation:

"You don't get into farming for the money. You do it for the love of the game."

Yes. That's exactly why "[h]undreds of thousands of children under age 18" are forgoing school to work 14 hours days of back-breaking and dangerous work out in the fields. For love of the game.

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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