GUEST COLUMN: Agriculture: The original “Working from Home” job

So it seems one of the greatest experiments ever is starting to happen as I write this. That is the growing number of people trying to work from home during the “quarantine” requirements happening throughout the world right now. While there are multiple types of industries that have done this over the years with newer tech and whatnot, it is a fairly new concept for most. Not farmers though. Let us dive in that somewhat. 

Growing up on a farm myself I naturally was able to see this first hand into how a family works and operates while away from everyone else. While going to school was still a thing, having my dad farm, mom at home taking care of us, and even grandma next door doing her thing gave me a unique perspective on how life in rural America has worked and continues to work for generations. Beyond this, both my parents (especially my dad) even created their own companies from our farm in a converted grainery building we had. My mom started with making crafts and my dad started his Agtech company called Satshot which is still operating to this day.

What all this did was show to me how important and hard it is from people in Ag and just in general for people to work at home. It is no easy task. I currently work in Agtech myself and have worked from home for 8 years. It is actually becoming fairly common in Agriculture due to the nature of how Ag is rural. The thing I’m trying to say though is unlike most systems in place and from the past, Agriculture has always been working from home and will likely for quite some time.

Working from home can give you many unique perspectives, to say the least. Especially now, education and teaching kids from home are big. Think of back in the 1800s in how everyone was basically homeschooled and as more gathered in certain areas school houses started popping up in the country. We actually had one right near our farm called the Faleide School House, which my great aunt taught at and all my aunts and uncles went. My dad was the last and that was 5th grade for him. That is just one part of it but one that shaped rural America and one that separates I believe the workmanship and attitudes many have in the Midwest and Plains areas. Remember that old saying. “I used to walk to school 5 miles and in a blizzard back in my day!” Well, that was true actually. I’ve done a quarter-mile myself to get to a bus but I digress. 

With the education part, the whole core idea to why kids don’t go to school during the summer was mainly to help on the farm during the growing season since working from home was what farming was and always has been. That work ethic and understanding of values surrounding that have made what it is. Even not that long ago kids from Ag would only go to school till 8th grade and/or would be able to leave early during planting and harvest seasons beyond the summer shut down. Some colleges actually still have processes like this like in Wahpeton for the North Dakota State College of Science. All in all, working and educating kids from home is not only not new, but it is also the core of how rural communities and Ag have worked for over a century. 

Now beyond kids and education, the women in Ag and/or living in the country have dealt with this also for generations going back forever. Many still do today although not as much as they used to. It is though still very popular in different regions of the world for women to work from home. Whether that is actually tending to crops themselves in 3rd world countries to farm moms and wifes driving the tractors, combines, feeding cows, gardening, managing money, and beyond. There are more women working in modern Ag than ever before as well in Agtech like I work in but also in agronomy, sales, science, and being the main farmers themselves. I want to highlight this mainly because the way most think of women in Ag is just as the wife taking care of the kids. Well, this is further from the truth as most rural women that work in Ag know. 

Women in Ag keep the farms and ranches together and work just as hard as their husbands on a day to day basis. In the US at least, even 100 years ago, the farm wife had to grow the food, create meals from morning to night, milk the cows, butcher the animals, grind the grain, raise the kids and educate them all at the same time. Also, back in the day, many families had 6 or more kids for the reason of needing more people on the farm to help. Kids were not raised to become part of different industries, they were raised to work from home on the farm and expand that farm. If it wasn’t for their mothers, this was impossible. So think of that as well.

Next, I want to mention the Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and other family members that also live in or around the farm. My grandma was critical for everything to work at home. She was our babysitter at times, she helped mow the yard, keep track of other events, and was a community leader at church and beyond. The others in the family would also help on the farm and everyone was a part of a rural ag community to survive. Everyone worked from home and did their part as a cohesive unit to keep the family farms in operation. It is still very important today as rural childcare is harder to find and even finding help on the farm in general. We need to understand how important others in the family are, even local friends around the corner.

Finally, let’s look at the typical farmer themselves. Usually a male individual still these days, but one that works constantly on everything you can imagine on the farm and/or ranch. Farmers these days are not as handy in the traditional sense compared to back in the day mainly due to technology restraints, but here is a long list of “jobs” or types of “work” the typical farmer does all while at home beyond just what others think of as “farming.” Engineer, economists, banker, grain trader, truck driver, plumber, veterinarian, chemist, welder, machinist, construction, electrician, machinery operator, mechanic, carpenter, faith leader, politician, educator, and much much more. Of course, the most important of “jobs” the typical male has in Ag all while working from home is the most important of them all. That is being a father, a husband, and son to their kids, wives, and family as I listed above. Working from home involves a lot of work and it is hard, to say the least. 

Now in saying all of this, I’m not trying to put Agriculture and the people involved on a pedestal. I’m more trying to help others understand that in these times if you are worried about how this country and others will handle this newest pandemic and problems associated with it, think of Ag. You can trust that there are many around you that do this or have done this all their lives and help keep this country and world together. 

Agriculture is the glue that keeps many other economies and industries together. I mean we all have to eat. So if you need guidance on how to handle your job, kids, family, or other working from home situations, talk to a farmer or rancher from now or from a person formerly involved. You’ll be glad you did and hopefully, they can help you and put you at ease. Remember that Agriculture has one main word in it that illustrates what it is and that is Culture. Good Day. 

About the Author:

Nathan Faleide is currently the Strategic Initiatives Manager for AgIntegrated, which is an independent provider of software consulting and technologies integrating agricultural systems to enable the acceleration of technology innovation and adoption. Nathan has been involved in the precision ag industry for more than 20 years and has also worked extensively in the crop insurance industry. This all also stems from him growing up on a farm in central North Dakota and farming himself in the past.

Tyler Axness
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