Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why Not Just Quit?

(click on images to enlarge)

Many who do not milk cows wonder why dairy farmers do not just throw in the towel? Well, for one thing, jobs are very, very had to find. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) male over 55 unemployment rate now stands at 8.4%. Most dairy farmers fit that category. Females over 55 have it a little better at 6.9% unemployment.

But, maybe, there is another reason. Quitting is seen as failure and failure is very personal in America.

Roland Benabou and Jean Tirole published a very thought-provoking paper, “Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics” (Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2006). A telling part states:

International surveys reveal striking differences between the views held in different countries concerning the causes of wealth and poverty, the extent to which individuals are responsible for their own fate, and the long-run rewards to personal effort. American “exceptionalism,” as manifested by the widely held belief in the American Dream, is but the most striking example of this phenomenon. At the same time, ethnographic studies of the working and middle classes reveal that people do not come to these views as dispassionate statisticians. On the contrary, they constantly struggle with the cognitive dissonance required to maintain and pass on to their children the view that hard work and good deeds will ultimately bring a better life, that crime does not pay, etc., in spite of signals that life may not always be that fair. Psychologists have similarly documented the fact that most individuals feel a strong need to believe that they live in a world that is just, in the sense that people generally get what they deserve, and deserve what they get. When confronted with data that conflicts with this view they try to ignore, reinterpret, distort, or forget it—for instance, by finding imaginary merits to the recipients of fortuitous rewards, or assigning blame to innocent victims.

For virtually all dairy farmers these are exception times. Still it is very hard to shake the ingrained idea that a bit more hard work will eventually pay off.


  1. This is not easy- there comes a time when we MUST face reality. I have finally faced it and we are a family farm that is selling out-we will still hold our head up- we gave it our best effort. As I looked ahead I could not put confidence in a broken market system and a bank that painted us into a corner. Life will go on, our sons will be successful in whatever they do and when we get together as a family down the road we will look back on this with fond memories. We wish the best to you still in dairy. God is good!!!

  2. Incredibly sad, but wonderfully said.

  3. Believe me, when I say there is life after cows. It was one of the harder things I've done, but it's been almost a year since we sold and I can say I'am glad we did it!

  4. The family is the most important thing we've got. May God bless all farm families. It is'nt the farmers who have failed, it is the system that has failed them.

  5. I have also decided it is time to sell. Finding an off farm job is proving to be even harder than excepting the decision to sell.

    How to you put 30 years worth of farming experience into a resume.