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These days, when a young man or woman makes the decision to farm for a living, it’s usually with the intention either to go with the flow or swim upstream against it. That’s the way it is. Young farmers must use the focused power of agribusiness riding the current like a surfer snug in the curl or like salmon that preserve their species by opposing the current.
When I first heard of Eric Herm’s book Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth I was set to read a synopsis of Eric’s first year in the curl. Most likely, I thought, the book would take us through the ag loan process at the local bank, discuss the high cost of commercial seed, and bemoan crude oil led prices of fuel and fertilizer.
I was wrong.
Eric points out that not even a conventional farmer is assured success. Simply owning a stable of large machinery and taking huge swaths across the land isn’t fool proof, but Freedom to Farm, the farm bill, made it easier for them and harder for the likes of Eric. Harder too for independent dairy and livestock growers who no longer own crop land enough to feed their animals as land and grain prices have risen sharply.
In this unforgiving climate of ever bigger farms, beginning farmers are as endangered as wild salmon or Grizzly bears. Eric has as much in common with predators of salmon as with salmon themselves. There will always some willing to feed on young farmers, or skin them if they get the chance.
Having worked off the farm for a time, Eric had already developed a successful career. It was that experience that allowed him to perceive agriculture from a distance, a perspective those of us more closely positioned don’t have.
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