When it’s time to take a gamble, most people head for Vegas. It’s not as much fun if, like farmers, you’re betting on your livelihood every day.
So much is left to chance in the life of a farmer – unseasonal summer rain on crops left to dry in the field (raisins, almonds or alfalfa) can ruin a crop in a matter of minutes; a late spring frost or hail storm during or after bloom can freeze tender young fruit or leave small scars that only grow bigger. Farmers live with weather every year and prepare for it the best way we can. It's a reality we know all too well.
Other risks -- mostly man-made ones -- are even harder to see coming. Labor shortages during peak harvest of perishable crops, pests and plant disease outbreaks, water shortages, price swings due to supply and demand, food safety recalls, changes in trade policies for major export crops, and federal and state environmental and labor regulations can -- and have-- affected the farm's bottom line.
So why do we farm, given all of these risks? There are years when we ask ourselves that very question! Honestly, farming is just what we do – and in the case of my family, have done for five and six generations. Each year is a new beginning – a new crop and a restart that this year will be better than the last. Having a strong faith since we don't farm alone keeps us heading in the right direction year-in and year-out. God willing, we’ll continue to farm for a few more generations.
And if we ever do find ourselves in Vegas, I’ll pass on the roulette table and head straight to the buffet table!
Liz, her husband Earl, their grown children and their families make up Hudson Farms, a fifth-and sixth-generation family farm in Sanger, CA.