I’VE written before about farmers who struggle because of the choices they’ve made. And sentimentality is often to blame.
“A sentimentalist is one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it”: timeless wisdom from 19th-century British playwright, Oscar Wilde, who may not have known much about farming, but certainly knew how to use words.
At a time of year when sentiment is at the fore, I think it’s worth revisiting the unsentimental concept that the pressure some farmers put on themselves to continue to run a farm as family legacy rather than a business is ludicrous. At the end of the day, we can’t afford to think about what dad or great grandpa would have wanted.
If it’s failing to be productive, or you can’t make a go of it, sell it.
Not forgetting it wasn’t too long ago, that almost our relatives were either forced out here, or chose to come in search of a better life. Either way, sentimentality was given up when they boarded the boat or plane.
Humans are sentimental beings. And, like many others, I only have to rummage through family storage to open boxes full of primary school reports, paintings and assignments. Kept by mum, to hold onto me and my experiences she shared. But she never opens them, probably never will. Like most, she keeps the stories and images in her head to recall effortlessly whenever she wants. The value she finds in sifting through this stuff isn’t worth her time.
We’re often sentimental about events, objects, property, loved ones and of course possessions of the deceased that we wish to remember. But sometimes that emotion comes at a cost - not just a monetary one either.
Farmers learn early on that being sentimental is denying reality. Those managing livestock deal with destroying, selling and watching them die. I’ve even caught my old man growling over selling older cows that “meant something” to him. It was the start of a tough season, and the business needed them to go.
Sometimes farmers cannot even think of selling an unproductive patch of dirt, not able to see it as different to the one it was when it used to work. Management aside, some turn a blind eye, clouded with sentimentality over what’s supposed to be an income producing asset.
What’s really frustrating is when we see those who are not willing to pay the price for their choice in emotion but expect others to, with a handout. Is it fair that taxpayers should sling a cocky a five or six figure grant when he or she is struggling to make a buck because at the root of the issue lies some serious pining over pedigree property?
So beware, despite the emotion of the season, sentimentality can be an Achilles heel and something farmers need to avoid when it comes to the business of making a living.