Opinion: Farmers could teach other Canadians about facing risk

Glacier FarmMedia – Hog farmers face high feedgrain prices, multiple animal disease threats, increasing restrictions on how they operate and a public that sometimes treats them with hostility.

Grain farmers face high fertilizer prices, dry soils, higher machinery costs and rising interest rates.

Yet both sets of farmers, at least the ones I interact with, are overwhelmingly optimistic and keen to take on another year. The numerous, looming risks they face don’t intrude upon their general sunny outlook.

If farmers could find a way to pass on this optimism-in-the-face-of-extreme-risk temperament to the general population, they’d be doing it a great favour.

Our society is still filled with fear and pessimism, coming out of two years of pandemic, the Ukraine war, and half a decade of worsening geopolitical tensions. Surging inflation isn’t helping.

Some of the dread occupying much of the public seems like a reasonable apprehension of true risk. These are scarier times than most of us have faced for many years, or ever. Being cautious while the pandemic winds down, a land war rages in Europe and inflation takes a bite out of the family budget makes sense.

But some of the fear seems reflexive, like a conditioned response learned in the darkest times of the pandemic, when a tidal wave of sickness, hospitalization and death threatened to overwhelm our population as we waited anxiously and powerlessly for vaccines to be created, approved and distributed.

It’s as if many now instinctively leap into worry and fear in the face of any challenge, or in the absence of anything that relieves all our anxiety. It seems to have become a habitual way of thinking and feeling — fearing the worst — that inclines one to remain in a defensive crouch until all risks have passed.

This will, of course, never happen, but many in our society are having trouble learning to live with the new risks in our lives. Our public health officials are trying to wean us off our obsessive focus on COVID risks, but many are having trouble doing that after two years of being encouraged to be ever conscious about those risks. It’s hard to pivot from reasonable fear to reasonable confidence.

I’ve witnessed this first-hand, where some are outraged and appalled that the provincial government has stopped reporting daily COVID numbers, even though daily numbers provide nothing more of value to the public than weekly numbers. As the public health officials point out, their advice on sensible precautions doesn’t change based on marginal changes in daily counts: wear a mask when you can; avoid large group gatherings if you’re particularly at-risk; spend time outdoors and in well-ventilated places if you can. You don’t need to pore over the daily numbers to figure out whether to do any of those things.

Farmers juggle so many risks. It’s a crazily risky line of work, whatever type of farming one has chosen. It’s much riskier than almost any other line of work.

The risk of another drought this year, or of having African swine fever appear in Canada, is much greater than the chance most people face of serious illness from COVID-19 (if they’re vaccinated), as is the risk of crop or livestock prices slumping while fertilizer and feed grain prices remain high, but most farmers are cheery at this time of year, despite the recent past.

Is this confidence in the future a reasonable response?

For me, it wouldn’t be. But then, I’m not a farmer and I’d make terrible decisions if I was a farmer.

I’d be scared to seed my fields or breed my sows because of all the things that could go wrong to the crops and the pigs. You wouldn’t get far as a farmer with that approach.

There’s lots of ways to go broke as a farmer, as every farmer knows, but you aren’t going to do well as a farmer if you’re always scared of taking a risk, and of living with a high degree of risk. Anybody who’s farming today has faced multiple crises and survived them.

A lot of us who aren’t farmers could benefit from living with a bit more of that attitude. You can’t eliminate all the risks that you face, but you can set yourself up as best you can to deal with whatever comes and have a little faith in the future.

Then get out there and plant another crop and breed your sows and cows. You can’t be too scared to get out there and do what you’re there to do.

– This article was originally published at The Western Producer.

Source: Farmtario.com