Farm auction: A series of long good-byes
What a beautiful fall weekend we just experienced! Brilliant blue sky, falling leaves and that peculiar slant to the sunlight make the world look like—October.
There are always plenty of events happening this time of year—football games, pumpkin patches to visit, festivals, etc. Plus, it’s a good time for yard work.
But the hubby and I opted to go to a farm equipment auction on Saturday morning.
We’ve noticed that farm auctions are a great place to visit with our neighbors. Yes, we drove 20 minutes to visit with our closest neighbors whom we hadn’t seen since, well, the last farm auction.
We arrived just in time to hear the auctioneer start his song, and the sale was off to a fast start.
I like to watch farm sales. There can be a lot of hidden drama if you pay close attention.
Once folks start bidding, it’s hard to stop sometimes, regardless of the real value of the item they’re bidding on. Get two or three people going after the same thing and an item can bring far more than it’s worth.
You really have to be careful about your hand gestures too. A big wave at an old friend could land a rusty corn grinder right in the back of your pickup truck.
Most of the farmers who frequent these sales are quite subtle in their bidding, though. They’ll just lift a finger or nod their heads very discreetly.
Although farm auctions are a great place to visit, there is something sad about them. Usually they are the selling off of a life’s work. Most are held after a farmer has passed on, or when there’s no descendent who is interested in carrying on the operation of the family farm.
Some farmers sell off to downsize; others go out of the business because they can’t make a profit.
Either way, a way of life gets auctioned off piece by piece.
There goes the horse-drawn plow that’s been resting in the barn for decades.
There goes the bushhog that’s kept these pastures neatly mown.
And there goes the tractor, tobacco setter and wagon along with the knives, spears and presses–all the tools used for growing our state’s top (legal) cash crop, one that used to fund Christmas for most rural families.
Nearly every small farm in the county once produced an acre or two of tobacco but now only a handful of them still do.
I can’t help but notice that most of the crowd gathered around the auctioneer is gray-haired. Only a few of the younger generation seems interested in carrying on the operation of the family farm.
Which is perfectly understandable. Farming is hard work and a costly operation, especially since fuel prices have gone sky-high.
Farmers are frustrated daily by the fact that everyone seems to make money from their labors except them.
My husband used to deliver feed to dairy farms, and he has seen a lot of dairy farmers throw in the towel in the past couple of decades.
Beef might bring 60 cents a pound when farmers take their cattle to market but that T-bone in the meat case at your local grocery will set you back at least eight dollars a pound.
Plenty of smokers, chewers, and dippers still exist, but the US imports much of the tobacco sold in this country.
The government exports our best burley and imports a lower quality leaf to mix with our good stuff so the cigarette companies can make a greater profit. Go figure.
The bottom line is—somebody’s making money besides the small farms.
I read somewhere that for every dollar spent on a grocery item, the farmer gets to keep six cents. That’s pitiful!
So where does our food supply come from, one might wonder.
Most of it is mass-produced on huge factory farms. Much of it is imported from places that have few if any regulations for growing it.
I could go on for days about how ill the effects of these practices are on us humans and our local economies, but I don’t have space to do that here.
I’m painting a pretty bleak picture of the state of farming, and I don’t mean to. Obviously somebody’s scraping by on the small farm or everyone would have quit by now.
The “buy local” movement is catching on, as more and more people grow concerned about where their food comes from. The Kentucky Proud program has done a lot to help with the transition from tobacco to alternative crops.
Times are changing in the agriculture world as with the world at large, and the business of farming just won’t be done the same as it was in the past.
That’s just the way the world works, I guess.
I have a lot of warm memories of growing up on a farm, and I just hate to think that few kids, even in our rural areas, are going to grow up with that experience if things don’t change.
Maybe they will.