Farming and the Application of Force

I read a large variety of books and blogs mostly in the alt. agriculture umbrella but also a few that fit in an alt. economics category…if you’ll allow that term. I enjoy the way Bill Bonner writes…tying humor, criticism, common sense and wealth advice all together in a fun little package. He also overuses ellipses…and I like that. I wrote about a book of his I read a year ago if you are interested.

On a recent blog post Bill wrote,

Force doesn’t work in human affairs, because it doesn’t bring people what they really want. Force doesn’t give you a ‘win-win’ trade.

Instead, force sets up a ‘win-lose’ transaction. A man robs a liquor store. He has booze. But the liquor-store window is broken, and the store’s insurance rates go up. The world is poorer as a result.

Force rarely works in domestic affairs, either. A woman coerced is rarely a happy woman. And an unhappy woman rarely makes a man happy for long.

Nor does force work in an economy. When the Fed forces interest rates down, it is driving buyers and sellers to do something that they otherwise would not do. It is exercising brute force on markets.

Does it work? Ask any jackass who has ever tried price controls or centralised economic planning. The answer is no.

I could go on a tear about using voluntary transaction between individuals to build farm sustainability but, instead, to put this in line with other recent posts I have put here, I’ll tie on to the part where he is talking about relationships between a man and a woman. I am stronger than my wife. Significantly. (If you think this is an obvious statement you haven’t met enough farm wives. There are some strong women out here!) I can easily pin my wife to the floor while the kids tickle her. But I have to be careful to make sure she is having fun…that she’s part of the game, not a victim of the game. Everybody has to have fun.

Everybody has to have fun.

Did I move to my grandmother’s house, dragging 5 others along by strength of will or did the 6 of us agree and follow a prepared course of action? Years later, is everybody still having fun? Do we all agree that we are better off now than we were before…than we believe we would have been had we made other choices?

If I can answer these questions positively I have the foundation I need to answer the other questions. Why do we have cows? It’s the best way we can fix carbon and cycle nutrients in the pasture while respecting my family’s time. Why do I want to sell farm products? To make customers happy, to heal our pasture and preserve ecological resources, to heal our community to provide my family with the highest-quality food available and, importantly, to make our farm economically sustainable. How important is that? I’ll quote from another blog I’ve been reading through lately:

Want to know what I consider to be a sustainable farm?  Very simple:  One that stays in business.   It’s fine and good to be for the environment, and all farmers I know  care very much about their land, but you can’t save the world unless you’re a going concern.   If you, dear reader, are interested in farming to improve the environment, please do consider this point carefully.  …the bottom line is…  well, the bottom line.  Make a profit.  Keep going.

Well, OK.  I’ll go on a tear about using voluntary transactions between individuals to build farm sustainability.  I don’t want customers who buy out of pity. That’s not win-win. I want customers who are enthusiastic about our products. Customers who are sensitive to animal conditions and nutrient density, not customers who are looking for cheap food. I’m happy to provide food of the highest quality to customers who will pay a fair price. Cheap out on me and I lose. If I cheap out on you, you lose. We both hold up our end of the bargain and we both come out ahead. That blog post above points out that a business went broke, not because their quality was poor and not because of lack of customer demand but because they couldn’t meet their obligations.

But let’s pretend there are no expenses (including taxes) and there are no customers to satisfy…that no money is needed. How do I build enthusiasm in my children without forcing them to do the work?

Did you know we home school our children? My wife has a blog about it. She doesn’t write anything on the blog but it is hers. Anyway, I have memories of my lovely bride calling to say that our then 6 year-old daughter was crying and hiding her face in a pillow because she didn’t want to do reading lessons! “I just don’t think she is cut out for home schooling!” she said.

So we hit the books. What do other parents do when their students/children hit a wall? Some push through it…with apparent success.  Others just take a break and let the kid figure it out when they are ready…again, with apparent success. We found a home school philosophy that said we should inspire, not require our children to read. Inspire them. Rather than force our daughter to read we just focused more of our own time on reading. She noticed and it was almost as if she said, “Gosh, I don’t know what they find in those darned book things but there must be something in there.” So she started reading…and kept at it.

We didn’t have to force her to read. Will this work for all children? I don’t know all children. It has worked out pretty well in our family.

When we moved here we (the adults) led the way on butchering chickens. Three of our children were curious about it, one (the same one) wanted to stay in the house and do housework. OK. That lasted a couple of years. But now, we all help on butchering day. Everybody has a job. Nobody HAS to do it. We work together. That’s that.

And, I think, that’s how it should be. Some days you don’t want to have your shoes covered in chicken guts. I totally get it. But most days, you want to fulfill your role within your team.

If that role is washing dishes and baking pie with grandma, cool. But if you want to join us outside there’s a place for you. Here she is in purple, proud that she can cut off the feet.

GirlsIgnore the full crops on those birds.  We had some bad weather and just had to work when we could.

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4 thoughts on “Farming and the Application of Force

  1. I struggle with how to get my kids involved in growing our food. They all have everyday chores they must do, but on top of that, there are times I need them to help me with my chores. I don’t want it to always be something they dread, ‘oh no here comes dad again with a shovel, RUN!’ But I want them to learn how to do things for when they have their own families. It’s a struggle sometimes to find the middle ground.

    • I have some exceptional children. No doubt. For us, the key to it all has been to just keep them near as we work/study/experience. Even if they are playing with toys in the dirt or lugging kittens around, they are nearby.

      But we get our kids involved as we can. “Want to drive the tractor (on flat ground)?” “Want to run a Bobcat?” “Why don’t you drive the truck between the bales and I’ll pick them up.” Not only are these meaningful work contributions on the farm, the kids have a blast! Drive a 3/4 ton truck at age 8?!?!? Awesome!

      And the consequence of all this training is that when my 12 year-old is helping trench a power line and there is a Bobcat in the way he can move it on his own. When my wife and I are both absent from the farm for 2 days the kids can stay next door with grandma and grandpa and can run the farm themselves. In fact, we left the farm in the kids’ capable hands just this week. Move cows? Check and feed pigs? No problem. They needed grandpa’s help moving chicken tractors. It wasn’t perfect. We exposed a few deficiencies in training but, it worked.

      I feel, with farm chores, if I can get the kids to take ownership…if I can get them to express personal interest and make an emotional investment in the enterprise, getting them to do the work is easy. My parents wanted the yard raked so they encouraged me to build a leaf pile. Everybody wins.

      Concerning everyday chores, we have tried several strategies to entice them into housework but it really comes down to one thing: You are a member of this household. You dirty dishes, you dirty laundry…that means you help clean dishes and help with the laundry. That’s just how it is. We do keep and rotate chore lists. We have rewarded chore completion but I really don’t feel it is necessary. We just had to establish a pattern in the house. I don’t know if any of that helps.

  2. All of our children are adults now. We have forced them to do tasks and have bargained at times. The boys were allowed to rotate turns when Dad had a job to do they disliked.One at a time they would go work with Dad. Firewood was always their struggle, but when you heat with wood, it has to be cut.

    Chicken harvest day usually is Mom and Dad. They have all watched, but none participate. Some day. They usually get to choose their work and now as adults don’t argue,just get to work.

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