Since ancient times, farming has been one of the riskiest professions in the world. This fact is mostly due to the inherent difficulty of predicting the weather. In one stroke, nature can easily wipe out months of hard work and leave a farmer ruined. Of course, modern technology has made things a little easier, but certain risks will always remain.
The main difference between gardening and farming is the scale involved. It is incredibly hard to grow large crops without heavy machinery, and that’s why most farmers today rely on their tractors, bush hogs, cultivators, and combines (among other things). So why is this a problem? Because such machinery is never cheap to buy or maintain. Not only are these machines expensive, but they can also be very dangerous if used improperly. Unfortunately, there is no way to remove this risk completely. For instance, consider this case. A man from Indiana was killed when he fell from a moving combine harvester and was pulled beneath its wheels.
Nearly all farm work is outdoor work, and the outdoors come with a few inherent hazards as well. When working in the hot sun (as is often the case), there will always be a certain risk of overheating and sunstroke. Even if you are just sitting on your tractor, this can still be a problem if you aren’t properly hydrated. Over time, you can even get cancer from spending too much time in the sun. While ancient farmers didn’t have to worry about this, we do. Tractor canopies can help, but not totally protect from skin cancer. Farmers and their fields are often the targets of pests. These can include poisonous insects or arachnids, but the biggest risk is the mosquito. They can sometimes act as carriers for various blood diseases, and a hot, sweaty human is a target that they often can’t ignore. Mosquito netting, repellents, and a diet high in garlic can help you to be a less appealing target.
Many novice farmers do not understand this simple principle: A piece of land only has a certain amount of nutrients in its soil. Once these are exhausted, nothing will grow until nature has had an opportunity to replenish those nutrients. That’s why you should never use the same field twice in a row. By following this one simple step, you can ensure that each field will have an entire year to replenish itself by natural means. You can accelerate the process by planting clover, putting down fertilizer, or adding compost.
Blight and Disease
Plants can get diseases just like we can, and these diseases can wipe out entire crops if they are not addressed. When a whole field comes down with some kind of blight or disease, it can take a lot of time, work, and money to deal with the problem. These diseases can be bacterial, fungal, viral, or microbial. If you want an example of just how bad it can be, think about the famous Irish potato blight of 1845-1849. Because potatoes were used as a primary food source, this one blight resulted in mass starvation, mass emigration, and a lot of social unrest. When you see something like this, it is important to act fast. The ability to quickly identify a disease is crucial if you are going to treat it in time to save your crop.
As you probably know, the weather does tend to follow certain patterns. That being said, these patterns represent general trends, not rules. Even if you follow the weather forecast every day, nature can and will occasionally throw you a curveball. Even with regular weather patterns, crops can have different needs when it comes to sun, moisture, and heat, so it is important to keep an eye on all the conditions and how the effect they have.
As if the demands of growing the crops weren’t bad enough, a farmer must also be something of a businessperson as well. For instance, let’s say you are growing corn. You have to consider all your expenses, which might include vehicles, fuel, fertilizer, labor, cages/stakes, or many other things. In order to make a profit, you must clear those expenses. So, you need to find out how much money corn will bring you (on a per-bushel basis), and you must then figure out how many bushels you can get per acre. This will tell you how many acres you need to plant in order to make a good profit. Unfortunately, all this careful consideration can come to naught if the price of corn were to change at the wrong time.
Like most activities, farming is regulated by the government to a certain extent. If you are producing food for mass distribution, these regulations can affect you quite a bit. In most cases, the most problematic regulations will come from the EPA. Of course, it is very important that you avoid practices that are destructive to the environment, so we can’t blame them for making these rules. A smart farmer needs to know these rules and be sure to remain in compliance at all times.
Unless you have a very strong back and/or a very large family, you will probably need to hire some workers to help you on the farm. At the bare minimum, you will probably need to hire some pickers to help with the harvest. This means that you will be subject to labor laws. You will also be responsible for the safety of your workers, and this can lead to very expensive lawsuits if something goes wrong on your watch.
If you aren’t familiar with the farming life, all these risks can be very intimidating. Indeed, these are just a few of the risks that keep many people from entering this profession. However, you should also remember that people have been doing this kind of thing successfully for thousands and thousands of years. Still, it is important to walk into this lifestyle with a clear idea of the risks and rewards.