Farmers are often perceived as whiners, never happy really with their lot. “If a farmer isn’t complaining, something is probably wrong with him,” is a Swiss saying I heard while growing up. There does seem to be something to that. Either it’s too dry or it’s too wet, too hot or too cold, prices are poor, interest rates are high, agriculture policies are impossible. That last is always a topic with Swiss farmers, who have some of the toughest agriculture legislation in the world.
So I was especially thrilled to meet four young Swiss farm families that are passionate about farming and positive about their future. I work part-time for the Schaffhauser Bauer, a weekly agriculture insert into the daily Schaffhauser Nachrichten. This being the International Year of Family Farming, we decided to portray a family farm once a month. It was my privilege to write the first four articles.
All four families live on the same yard as their parents, three of them in the same house (albeit with clearly separate apartments). While still the norm in rural Switzerland, problems related to living so closely together are a common concern heard by the ‘Sorgentelefon’, the Swiss Helpline for Farmers. Yet here are four families that make it work. The younger generation is thankful for the asset their parents are to them, both on the farm and with the children. There are clear rules which are followed, and both generations show an appreciation for each other.
I know three of the Dads, all of which are positive people with energy and drive. I also know them well enough to have heard them do their share of complaining, especially about the Swiss agriculture politics. When we sit together, I wonder why anyone would want to be a Swiss farmer anymore. It makes me glad we sold our Swiss farm back in 1991 and moved to Canada before the restrictions became so tight. These farmers are all glad they could pass the main responsibility on to their kids.
That’s why I get so excited when I am together with these young families. They radiate an energy most of the older generation doesn’t have any more. They don’t always like the agriculture politics either, but they work around them, are creative, build, and acquire land. They appreciate the perks the family farm gives them – the ability to be their own boss, be around their family, live and work with the land and the animals. They see enough of the stress their friends are under in the general working world. They’re happy with their lot.
They fire me up and fill me with new energy. It takes the ‘whine’ right out of me!