The farmer relating this story to me works in town during the week. Recently, he headed down to the local fertilizer dealer on Saturday morning to get fertilizer for his pasture. He wanted to get it on before the next rain. He never thought twice about whether the store would be open. It had been open on Saturday since he was a kid.
Every other Saturday morning in those days was when his dad drove to the county seat, cashed the milk check, and stopped by the Murphy's Five and Dime to get a pound of chocolate candy. The store clerk would scoop it up with a metal scoop, weigh and bag it. It was all part of the Saturday experience.
So when the farmer chatting with me pulled up in front of the farm store at 9 a.m., he was a bit perplexed. Everything was dark inside. There were no cars around. No one was behind the counter, no farmers were chatting in the corner after ordering supplies. The store was closed.
So the farmer ended up at one of the "big box" farm stores, something that didn't exist in the past. Some carry more chicken feed and horse products than sheep feed. Obviously they're catering to the weekend farmer. They also don't carry urea in 50 pound bags. If the farmer was going to get fertilizer for his small pasture before Monday, he would have to buy a lower analysis than he wanted at a higher price than he wanted to pay. Fertilizer at these stores is typically designed more for lawn care than farm fields, even pastures.
There were probably good reasons for the farm fertilizer store being closed on Saturday. There apparently isn't enough business to justify staying open, at least when farmers aren't in the field. I would fully expect that dealership to be open at all hours farmers need it this spring.
But the point remains. What has happened to 50, 75, 100 years of tradition in agriculture? What happened to going to town on Saturday morning?
We don't have answers to these questions. But we believe they're worth asking. What will the relationship of farm suppliers and farmers be in another 10 years? 25 years? 50 years?
Some traditions are hard to give up. Some traditions shouldn't be given up. After all, farming is more than just business, isn't it? Farming is still about people, too, right?The fact that I asked myself that question might give me the answer!