BUT WHAT IS THIS JOB?
Last week I was invited to a wedding in the Bordeaux region, in a beautiful village surrounded by vineyards. This was probably the most rainy wedding to which I ever assisted. The output of the church, in the pouring rain, was somewhat chaotic. One felt a certain restlessness in the audience. One always wants a marriage to be accompanied with good weather, to enjoy better the circumstances, beautiful dresses and costumes.
Yet it also was possible to feel that the nature and the surrounding countryside were breathing. It must be said that the region is suffering for many weeks a worrying drought.
Farmers should probably feel some relief, joined to some concern. Relief, because this rain marks at least a serious break in the drought, and restores some reserve of water for crops till the end of summer. The concern because, as the Spanish say "nunca llueve a gusto de todos" ("it never rains to taste of all"), but also because it's sure that some farmers were in a critical phase of the cycle of their crops, that this rain has disrupted, while others such as winegrowers, know that the rain brings its share of diseases, and they will probably have to spray to avoid them.
In short, it is the eternal dilemma of agriculture. Most climate events have their positive sides and their problematic sides. And there, as I've already mentioned, there is a great misunderstanding between the agricultural world and the rest of the population. Is that it is difficult to understand when one is not part of this community, why farmers are never completely happy with the weather.
Regarding to the wedding, it was in the agricultural community, so everyone took it with more or less philosophy. The wedding dress and the costumes were yet victims of this rain and of the mud.
"Rainy Wedding, happy marriage," they say in France for consolation. Let's wish to Lucia and Jean-Marc all the happiness in the world.
This little anecdote made me remember a story, true in its substance, although refurbished to my way, and that I'll tell you now.
Once upon a time, there was a farmer who had inherited a good agricultural business from his father. He loved his job. His choices of crops were wise, the necessary means were always well calculated. He was earning substantial profits and reinvesting them systematically into new farms and new projects. With over sixty, he had been able to develop the family business to become an authentic rich landowner, with an outstanding agricultural heritage.
One day, while he was driving his powerful car on the highway, he had a serious accident. Discomfort? Distraction? The story does not say. In short, he died.
But this man had no children. By cons he had many nieces and nephews, none of whom had chosen to follow the uncle in his passion for agriculture. They were mostly highly educated and they were all doctors, lawyers, businessmen, bankers and others.
The time of inheritance came. Then all heirs felt interested, perhaps for the first time in their lives, to the uncle's activities. And then inevitably, came the question that nephews, trained and educated persons, sophisticated investors, did not fail to ask.
- "So, well, well, well, what is the profitability of this business?"
- "Well, dear sir, in fact, you see, it depends".
- "It depends? But what kind of answer is that? And, on what does it depend, please?"
- "Well actually it depends on several things:
If it rains too much or too long,
If it does not rain enough,
If it rains just enough, but not at the right time,
If it is too cold,
If it is not cold enough,
If it is cold, just enough, but not at the right time,
If it is too hot,
If it is not warm enough,
If it's hot, just enough, but not at the right time,
If there is too much wind,
If there is too much sun,
If there is not enough sun,
If hail falls,
If there is frost,
If the weather is too wet,
If it the weather is too dry,
That's for the weather. But to this, you have to add the vagaries of the market, often capricious:
If there is overproduction,
If stocks are high,
If the quality is inadequate,
If consumption falls,
If political decisions are not favorable,
If there are geopolitical tensions, accompanied, for example, by an economic blockade on an important destination,
If the regions in competition are doing dumping,
If the weather is not suitable in destination areas.
Then and finally, you have to know that the schedules can be somewhat unstable.
Sometimes you have to work on Sunday,
Sometimes you have to work at night,
Often we must make long working days it may even happen that we should work more than 24 hours without sleep,
You can take long weekends, of course, but especially in winter
Enjoy the good weather to go to the beach? Choose instead a rainy day. "
- "BUT WHAT IS THIS JOB?”
As accustomed to trades that don't depend so much on criteria over which we have no control, and whose pace is more regular, nephews decided to sell, little by little, all the holdings accumulated by the uncle. His great project was therefore entirely dismantled and sold piecemeal. A large proportion of people who had followed him, or whose incomes depended on him, found themselves in a difficult situation.
The nephews could thus divide up the heritage accumulated by the uncle through hard work, risk taking, and reflection, and largely increase their financial investments.
This is a story, a bit sad for my taste, which reflects an everyday reality of agriculture. It's probably the human activity that is most dependent on weather conditions. Risk taking is continuous, and greater than in any other activity.
Unfortunately, modern civilization does not really appreciate what escapes its control.
Farmers, who sometimes cross difficult situations, often have difficulty to find support from banks or governments, who don't necessarily understand this reality, and don't include it, or not sufficiently in their business plan.
Agriculture in industrialized countries suffers a chronic lack of understanding from the whole society. This activity, yet fundamental, is wholly out of step with modern criteria of quality and lifestyle.
This lack of understanding is undoubtedly a major problem, rotting relations between agriculture and society.
The farmer has a beautiful but difficult profession that society does not appreciate. Since several years, it is the unjustified target of an increasing amount of media attacks that would have been destroyed it, if it was not so much a fundamental activity, since the survival of the human species depends on it 100 %.
Agriculture is the only human activity that would survive a great cataclysm. It's about the production, no less, of the foods consumed every day and several times a day if he can, by every human on the planet.
It is also a highly strategic sector, both economically and geopolitically.
Yet this lack of understanding is at all levels of society, from the people to the political sphere. See the plight of European breeders who, because of policy decisions, often find themselves in desperate economic situations.
It's a tough job, binding, often tiring, sometimes dangerous, on the sidelines of modern societies. But it is also an exciting job, in permanent contact with nature, often exhilarating, never repetitive. In short, it is a very beautiful job, unfortunately too maligned by people (in most cases city-dwellers without any relation to agriculture) who understand nothing and see the world only through distorting glasses.
It is also a job where everything is always risky, nothing is ever totally safe until the harvest is over, under cover, sold and paid. You can have the harvest of the century, a quality ever achieved, in a situation of perfect market, and receive a hail storm just the day before. If you are insured, you will spend the year, but you will have inevitably to forget the projects you have been trained in the time previous to harvest.
Today's society does not tolerate this kind of problem, and do not accept what has always existed since it is inherent to the farming profession. It requires that all human activity is brought to the mold of its own requirements. But that's not real life. Real life should require that social services, banking and financial services and administrative services adapt to the realities of each activity. However, the world is running in reverse.
Formerly, solidarity allowed to cross a difficult course. Now, the system grinds the same way the dishonest one and the unlucky one.
Farmer? This is one of the eldest professions in the world, while also being one of the most modern, and above all the only one truly indispensable.
Accompanied by a coherent and energizing policy, agriculture should be a key motor of the economy of any country. But poorly organized and regarded as a coal nut and a source of problems and unnecessary expenses, as it seems to be the case in Europe, it becomes an embarrassment and everything seems to be done to weaken it.
Leave Agriculture decline is preparing the collapse of the whole society.