Five agriculture myths that need to die

Published September 17, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Yvette Tan


Yvette Tan

Five agriculture myths that need to die Farming, like politics, is a contentious topic in the Philippines, especially for folks who aren’t exposed to the agriculture industry. It’s very easy to come up with an opinion on a subject when one has no real exposure to it beyond the news (oftentimes as half-heard news reports on TV or radio) and Amorsolo paintings. Because of this, several myths about agriculture have persisted over the decades, all of which have been detrimental to the industry. Here are some of them.

All farmers are old.

It’s true that most farmers are seniors and that the industry is experiencing an ageing crisis. It’s true that there is a danger of food shortage because of a lack of farmers, as well as because of a lot of other factors such as lack of land and water. But it doesn’t mean that all farmers are old. While it’s important to highlight the need for young farmers, it’s equally important to talk about the slowly growing number of young people interested in tilling the land. It’s important to recognize their efforts so they don’t get discouraged and to offer them industry and government support to make sure they don’t leave this highly uncertain industry for a more stable source of income.

All farmers are poor.

Subsistence farmers remain one of the most marginalized sectors in the Philippines. No wonder nobody wants to farm anymore! There is an immediate need to better the lives of these citizens so that they can stop living in survival mode. Aside from grants, they should be allowed access to adequate land and water, education on new farming techniques, the right kind of machinery for their crop and field size, well-kept farm to market roads, low-interest loans, among many other things, as a chance to do well and thrive as Filipinos. But there are some people who fall in between this and what people know as hacienderos. There are farmers who have made good lives for themselves, their families, and their employees on just a hectare of land. But again, this can only happen if a farmer has access to support.

All self-owned farms are evil haciendas.

Our history as a Spanish colony has rightfully taught us that many farmers suffered under the hands of plantation owners, and in some cases, that may still be true today. However, it doesn’t mean that all farm owners who own their own land have vast tracts of it, nor does it mean that even if they did, that they are necessarily evil conniving villains. Many smallholder farmers own their own land, and like subsistence farmers, they too need grants, access to the right kind of support to continue to thrive in such an uncertain industry. Many farm owners make it a point of pride to treat their farmhands well and make sure they are paid adequately. Yes, we must continue to right the injustices done to many farmers, but it doesn’t mean that all farmers and farmhands share this experience.

Farming is easy.

No, it is not. If it were, more people would be in agriculture, less people would leave the industry, and all farmers would not want for money. Farming isn’t just planting and harvesting and selling one’s crops. It involves planning along all stages and working with uncertainties like soil health, water availability, climate and weather, fluctuating prices, market demand, theft, pests, and so on. It can be physically exhausting as well. Once you realize how much work goes into one onion, one garlic, or even the sprig of coriander that adorns your food that you immediately shunt off to the side, and how little the farmer gets paid for it, your heart will break. This is probably why most people would rather proclaim their opinions about farming instead of actually learning about the conditions farmers face.

It’s okay to pay farmers poorly because they love their work.

There’s a certain bias that as long as you love your job, it’s okay to get paid next to nothing for it. And for some reason, it doesn’t affect all occupations. People call farmers, nurses, teachers, and creatives greedy for asking for a living wage, yet don’t bat an eyelash when A-list celebrities and sports stars say that they aren’t paid enough. Everyone deserves to earn enough for them to thrive, and folks who happen to love their job shouldn’t expect to be satisfied with poverty just because they happen to enjoy their work. Everyone should be given proper remuneration for the work they do, especially if, like in the case of nurses, teachers, and farmers, the health and wellbeing of the community literally depend on them.