Week-end Warrior
Viking, Minnesota

Rural Reflections Radio

I mention occasionally my dislike for the term “Hobby Farmer.” I believe this phrase isn’t a compliment and is not accurate.
 I know several people who have jobs in addition to farming but most of these people have plans to farm full-time or are trying to accumulate what they need to farm. They enjoy farming but it’s far from a hobby. Calling one of us a “Hobby Farmer” is similar to describing the National Guard or Army Reserves as “Week-end Warriors.” In either case these two entities not only represent a large portion of their industry but sometimes receive the disdain of their full-time counterparts. I read an article recently that said the average beef herd in the U.S. is 35 head and that the large herds make-up only one-third of the beef producers. The columnist said that small herds are normally not profitable and must have other reasons for existing. There are many small herds that are profitable mainly because of low overhead and good management. Some people have found that bigger is not better-better is better. Registered herds that sell bulls and replacement heifers have traditionally done very well and small commercial producers are now marketing directly to the customer for higher profits.
My neighbor told me that the new term for the part-time farmer is “Sundowner.” This refers to a person who works a job all day then comes home and works until sundown. I can live with this term. Didn’t your parents work on the farm until dark? People who work 15 hours a day deserve respect. Farm families have taken in laundry, worked at the general store, done custom farm work and taken winter jobs from the very start. These people are described as hard-working, industrious, independent and very recently-hobby farmers. Until very recently many of the farms in this area were what now would be called hobby farms.
I don’t know the origins of the phrase “hobby farmer” but the IRS uses the term so maybe they started it. That would make perfect sense. Let's blame them.