Saskatchewan·Opinion

As a farmer, I think the 'thank a farmer' movement is complete nonsense

Farmers are legitimate business owners trying to remain profitable and sustainable in a tough industry, all while providing for their own families. You can stop treating us like martyrs, says Osler, Sask., dairy farmer Cam Houle.

'We do not farm for the love of strangers,' says Osler, Sask., dairy farmer Cam Houle

Dairy farmer Cam Houle says you can keep your 'thank a farmer' sentiments. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

There is a kindly sentiment swirling around asking the average consumer to "thank a farmer" for the work that we do. 

As a farmer, I'm here to tell you that this is complete nonsense. Please stop.

When the general public thanks a farmer just for farming, it belittles our industry. It makes it feel like we aren't just like all other industries. Who thanks the plumbers, or truck drivers, or stay-at-home parents, or snowplow drivers?

We all contribute to society in our own meaningful way; we all signed up for our individual paths, we all work hard, we all deserve equal recognition.

Cam Houle says he milked his herd on 363 of the last 365 days. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Before I go on, let me thank you for thanking us. It's very kind of you and I do appreciate it. But any farmer worth their daily feed ration is not in need of your consumer appreciation.

We do not farm for the love of strangers, for the charity of giving back to our community, or for the greater good. We do not farm simply as a means to serve society. I farm to achieve my personal and business goals, to support my family and because it's my passion. It just so happens to meet a very important need, which is feeding the people that live around me.

I'm not sure when or how this whole "thank a farmer" concept came about.  Perhaps there was once a time and place for it, but that time is long past and that place is long gone.

Farmers are legitimate business owners trying to remain profitable and sustainable in a tough industry, all while providing for their own families.

You can stop treating us like martyrs. We deserve no more than the same respect any business owner earns, because we are just like any other business owner. We just chose an agricultural business.

I think some non-farming people have become too accustomed to weekends, holidays and short eight-hour workdays. They see our much different work life as extreme and assume it's a miserable life. Farmers work hard every day and a lot of days run long, but this is what we signed up for. 

We are not victims of circumstance. To the contrary, virtually every farmer I know loves this shit.

Yes, it's hard. That's just fine. I work almost every day — in the last year I have milked my cows 363 days — and I love it. There are hard days and long days and days where the farm loses money.

On those days I still wouldn't trade in my job with anyone else. My passion is here, on the farm, and no one needs to thank me for living my passion.

Farming is what I want to do, and what I've always wanted to do. I am extraordinarily blessed and lucky to be able to live this life.

Farmers that are out here doing this work have chosen it for personal reasons. Either we see that we can become successful business owners, or it's our passion and our dream to farm. Mostly it is a combination of the two. 

No one becomes a farmer strictly for the warm feelings of gratitude that the "thank a farmer" movement incites.

Instead of thanking farmers for what we do every day, farmers should be thanking consumers for the support they give us.

No business is viable without customers. Our customers, the non-farming 98 per cent, give us the opportunity to live our dreams. If people didn't consume Canadian dairy products, for example, my little family farm would cease to exist pretty quickly. 

So thank you to all the consumers out there that help to keep Canadian agriculture vibrant and healthy.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Cam is a dairy farmer from Osler, Sask., along with his partner, Jaime, and their children. They milk 42 Holstein dairy cows.

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