Monday, October 26, 2015

Picnic Lunch

Since my final day of helping out on the farm fell on a Saturday, my wife was off work and was looking forward to a trip down to the farm to pick some apples for preserving. We all thought it would be nice to have a picnic lunch, something we haven't done in a long time. When I was a young boy, I remember having a picnic lunch everyday in the fields. My grandma would bring out a basket full of a hot lunch like fried chicken and mashed potatoes and a pie for lunch. We would spread out a blanket and sit down in the shade to eat a leisurely lunch  and perhaps talk for an hour before going back to work.

Back then however, farms were much smaller and there was more time to get the necessary work done. The farm crisis of the 80's bankrupted many farms and the numerous small farms were absorbed by those who were able to survive the crisis. Economies changed as well and it became necessary to farm more land to be efficient enough to make a profit as equipment got more expensive. These days, it takes 6 to 8 weeks of practically non-stop work to get the crops shelled and in the storage bins and taking an extra hour off for lunch adds up to almost an additional week of work over that time. It is a week we can't afford and so lunch is mostly ate from the cabs of the tractors and combines while we continue on with our work.

Thus a picnic lunch is something that is rare but much appreciated after over a month of eating in a bouncing cab while juggling levers, wheels and throttles. We all powered down and had a leisurely lunch of pizza, salad and apple crisp made from the very apples my wife picked from the tree earlier. It wasn't fried chicken and mashed potatoes but my wife had two kids and her mother in tow and it is an hour drive from our kitchen to this particular field so picking up takeout pizza was a compromise of sorts. We arranged the food in the rear of my wife's SUV and sat down in the shade among the cornstalks and had a fine lunch.  All present thought we should make time to do this more often, but not too often.


Kelly said...

Peaceful photo...and you know what? It could be the Arkansas Delta as easily as Iowa.

Yum ... talk about FRESH apple crisp!

Vince said...

Milk quotas were removed in the EU last year and the price went from a steady 34c per litre to 18c. Note, a good cow produces 8000l per year and break even is 24c, or €1920.00. At 18c it's €1440, down from €2720 by 1280 and a loss per animal of €480.
By far the majority of farmers here farm between 100-200acres. You would need to ba a farming genius to make enough money to buy a an extra farm, so basically they are captured for the foreseeable future until people begin to borrow, lose all and go bankrupt and the sell.

Delighted you had a good day.

Ed said...

Kelly - Call it good photo cropping. About every inch of the land not seen in the photo is sloped and terraced hills. Even in the background, there is a valley just behind the corn and then it rises back up and has some trees to give it the illusion that it is flat that entire distance. In general, this part of Iowa is mostly river hills from thousands of years of erosion and never worn flat by ice like the upper reaches of Iowa or by a larger river like the Arkansas delta!

Vince - The farm crisis I refer to on this blog is essentially the same thing but dealing with corn prices instead of milk. There was also an explosive period of land buying preceding that so when the prices dipped, people got in deep debt fast. As the first sold out, those that were left had little cash to buy land so prices plunged making those in debt even worse off. Hopefully in the case you mentioned, milk production and prices will stabilize before too many people lose their farms.

Vince said...

The issue here at the moment is extremely similar to the 80 in the midwest and west with you. The big guys are delighted for they know soon enough they'll see land price drop and then the investment in machinery will make better sense. But in the country that saw the beginning of the farming CoOp movement in the 1880s and 90s the farmers are remarkable stupid and on the whole greedy. But mostly can't price risk.
It was truly hard to hear the P.R. for the removal of quotas and hear those that are now and will be most hit by the removal being the loudest cheerleaders.

Leigh said...

Pizza is the perfect lunch in my book!

The current state of farming economics is a very sad thing. I think there is a lot of interest in small farming, but land prices are so high, I don't see how anyone could make a living after paying the mortgage for land and equipment. The whole thing seems to be set up to keep farmers in debt.

Ed said...

Leigh - In my area, the size of farms are such that it would require someone with tens of millions of dollars to get started. Needless to say, most farms are inherited or parceled out to other nearby big farms. However, there are still a number of small acreages of 2 to 10 acres around which don't attract farmers due to their small size that would make great truck farms or something similar to your place.