Editor’s note: Saskatchewan dairy farmer Cam Houle’s tweet about people taking farmers for granted has resonated widely, receiving more than a thousand retweets since it was posted on April 10th. RealAg’s Shaun Haney wrote this column “Has Farming Become a Thankless Job?” in response. Now Cam shares the story behind the tweet and the lesson from it:
I was angry.
I was bitter, and tired, and frustrated, and embarrassed, and angry.
My debit card was declined at the grocery store. The same store where the product I worked so damned hard to produce was sitting right in the cooler. I had a cart full of food with three young boys hanging off the side, and no money. I was literally working 400 hours a month, and I had no money to show for it. I was a bitter, tired, frustrated, embarrassed and angry farmer.
It was my own fault; I know it today as well as I knew it that day. A simple banking maneuver that I should have known about took the vast majority of money out of my checking account. It was scheduled to happen. Anyone paying attention should have seen it and taken steps to avoid this disaster. I didn’t, and so I stood there with a blank look on my face as my card was declined twice.
And I got angry.
Of all the places for it to happen, I think this was the worst.
My horrible human mind started to talk to me.
“You feed people, and you can’t afford to feed your own kids.”
“You look like an idiot.”
“These people have no idea what farming is like.”
“They take me and all of us farmers for granted.”
“I’m wasting my time, money, and life farming.”
So I turned to my release valve, Twitter, where I could voice my frustration and anger and be surrounded, electronically, by a vast ocean of farmers that have been there and done that. They would help me.
I’ve figured it out. Farming is the art of losing money while working 400 hrs a month feeding people that think you’re trying to kill them.
— Cam Houle (@dailydairydiary) April 10, 2016
A lot of people either agreed with me, or supported me, or at least found the tweet entertaining enough for their taste. I didn’t want it to get this much attention. It was a moment of all my bad feelings and weakness and failure. But it’s out there and I will own it.
As it got more and more likes and shares on Twitter, and Facebook and even Instagram, I thought ‘Good, share me. Share my tweet to show the world how it feels to do a noble service for ungrateful people and then be publicly humiliated for it, because it’s so hard.’
It is embarrassing even to write that now, but that’s how I felt.
It wasn’t my tweet they were liking. It was the idea that WE farmers are under appreciated, and WE deserved better.
How foolish. If we are lucky, and many of us are, we get to choose how we spend our time and lives to support ourselves and our families. We get to focus on our craft and happily remain ignorant of every other human ordeal that others have to live through on a daily basis in order for our world to go ‘round.
My choices and mistakes were what led me to this angry point of my life, not my choosing to be a farmer and not how much farmers feel appreciated or under-appreciated. Very few humans are lucky enough to feel appreciated to the degree we require to maintain happiness all the time.
Maybe none of us.
Here’s the bottom line: Farmers know how hard we work to produce our goods, and how hard our lives are, but it’s still the life we choose. We choose it and we love it and if we don’t, then for God’s sake, get out. If you don’t live for what you do and love it, then please stop doing it.
What we do not know as farmers is how hard it is to live in urban areas and survive that life. If people are not from farms and don’t spend time on farms, it’s hardly their fault if they do not understand how our farms, our families and our lives work. Our job now is to show them, and to help them understand. And to give them the opportunity to accept or reject what we show them.
My message could have very easily been applied to almost any other profession or lifestyle: food scientists, or police officers, or teachers. Any number of roles or ways of life that are misunderstood, unknown or different from our own.
We all, at times, feel like failures that can’t succeed, that we should give up, and that no one appreciates us. That’s ingrained in us and that’s why my tweet, why my anger, was popular, but it’s only popular from my side of the fence. We’re all blindly following our own path, and so busy living our lives that we do not consider those around us. That knife cuts both ways. I think we should strive to fix that problem. We all should, whether we are farmers or not.