How Has Farming Changed Since “So God Made A Farmer?”

Shared from Ryan Goodman’s Feb. 5th blog –

Ryan Goodman is a generational rancher from Arkansas with a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University in Animal Science, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, studying beef cattle management. He is one of many farmers using social media to bridge the gap between farmers and urban customers. Follow his story daily at or on Twitter and Facebook.

4H notecardThis week has been an exciting one for those discussing food and farming. After Sunday’s airing of the Super Bowl, online communities were buzzing about the images and characteristics that defined our farmers in 1978. Those traits and values still hold true today, despite what we often hear in mainstream media and reports from those who have a “beef” with modern farming.

Paul Harvey first recited “So God Made a Farmer” at the 1978 Future Farmers of America Annual Convention. A few things have changed in the three and a half decades since. My dad was in junior high (and still had a full head of hair). Since then, he has raised a few thousand cattle, has broken in a few new pickups, and harvested several crops of hay.

So how do things compare between 1978 and today?

Using the numbers from our most recent U.S. Agriculture Survey (2007, a new one is being conducted for 2012), here are some interesting comparisons:

  • In 1978, there were 2,257,775 farms, averaging 449 acres each. In 2007, those numbers reduced to 2,204,792 farms averaging 418 acres each. Farms today are actually smaller by 31 acres.
  • Today the market value of farmland and buildings is $1,892 per acre. That is up from $619 per acre in 1978 – an increase of $1,273 per acre.
  • Today we have 922,095,840 acres of farmland in the United States. In 1978, that number was 1,014,777,234 – a decrease of 92,681,394 acres.
  • In 1978, 56% of farmers claimed farming as their primary occupation and 44% of farmers claimed zero days away from the farm work.
  • Today, 45% of farmers claim farming as their primary occupation and 35.3% of farmers claim zero days away from the farm work.
  • Our average farmers have aged almost 7 years since 1978. Today the average farmer is 57.1 years old.

The numbers have changed, and so has much of the technology farmers use to produce much more food on much fewer acres, but the person remains the same. The characteristics, values, hard work, determination, and grit it takes to work day in and out, producing food for a global food supply, still holds true 35 years after the late Paul Harvey first made his description.

While recently farmers and ranchers have struggled to have the general population understand their way of life, I hope we all take this opportunity to ruminate on the things food producers are doing right and carry on the conversation on how we can continue to improve.

So God Made a Farmer

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the township board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to wrestle a calf and yet gentle enough to cradle his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait for lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure to come back real soon and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year,’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from an ash tree, shoe a horse, who can fix a harness with hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. Who, during planting time and harvest season will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, up in another 72 hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to help a newborn calf begin to suckle and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower in an instant to avoid the nest of meadowlarks.”

It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, brake, disk, plow, plant, strain the milk, replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with an eight mile drive to church. Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his family says that they are proud of what Dad does. “So God made a farmer.”

–Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey - image courtesy of

Paul Harvey – image courtesy of

3 responses to “How Has Farming Changed Since “So God Made A Farmer?”

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