by Pete Hanebutt, NDFB Public Policy Director
Farmers and those who grow up in agriculture are certainly unique and have skill sets our urban cousins can’t match. That’s not to say folks in the city don’t have skills, but those who grew up ‘out in the country’ have talents, expertise and abilities gained over years of hands-on learning. I think most farmers can handle mechanical work on machinery and vehicles, in addition to carpentry, wiring, plumbing, welding, roofing, concrete, and even landscaping. And those are just the skills outside of agronomy, animal sciences, entomology, business management, and marketing.
The old saying, “Jack of all trades and master of none” hardly applies to most farmers – Rather, the saying should be “Master of most trades, jack of whatever needs done, even those things I haven’t tried yet.” It’s a result of our rugged individualism, our self-reliance and self-motivation, not to mention our desire to cut costs by holding down expenses wherever possible. We don’t want to hire an outsider to accomplish whatever tasks arise, and we’re independent enough to not ask for much help from friends or family either.
I don’t know many farmers who don’t handle almost all their house maintenance, farm equipment maintenance and basic veterinary work (to name a few.) The bathroom or kitchen remodel is a common project. A room addition is often tackled by expanding farm families, as well as basement or attic remodels.
Farmers are also known for building and wiring their own shops, and including a modern office with a meeting room as a part of the plan. Many of our younger farmers are also experts in the technology field. Visitors to a modern farm office may see business work space which rivals or exceeds any office in a metropolitan area.
And even though farmers sometimes hire specialty work done, you can bet most do the prep work themselves. Older farmers are a storehouse of acquired knowledge on every topic under the sun. The depth of knowledge is the most unique skill farmers have that sets them apart from other folks.
I go to church with an electrician, a roofer, a steel siding contractor, a veterinarian, an engineer, and a mechanic. There’s also a farmer in our congregation who possesses all these abilities. The skill set of farmers is remarkable and the practical engineering knowledge built up over a lifetime fixing stuff or making things work is often encyclopedic.
There’s nothin’ a farmer can’t fix, and I’ll laugh at myself and say there’s nothing I don’t THINK I can fix. We’re handy in the ag community: as handy as a pocket on a shirt.