Monday, September 29, 2008

A summer/fall vacation

I'm back from a week's vacation, which probably sounds pretty strange to people who work in agriculture. This is the the busy time of year for most people in agriculture. A summer vacation for a farmer or agriculture business in the northern hemisphere is pretty much impossible.

Frankly, that's one reason I didn't go to work for my dad in his aerial application (i.e. crop dusting) business. When I worked for my dad in my late teens, it was just impossible to plan anything with friends because you just didn't know when you would be able to get away from work. Evening events were out, even though we didn't work after dark, because we were always up and at it before it was light each morning to get the airplanes fueled and head out to remote airstrips to work in the calm conditions after dawn. We often stopped work in the middle of the day, as the rising temperatures were often accompanied by wind, making it impossible to spray.

But that didn't mean we were done working for the day. There was always work to do, like servicing equipment and cleaning. Oh, how I hated the cleaning. And it seemed there was always something to clean. If it wasn't washing airplanes, pickups or other service vehicles, then there was always the shop floor to clean. Then, as sunset approached, the winds would calm down, and it was back to spraying again until twilight.

Even on days when we woke up to windy conditions you could never venture too far on the off chance conditions improved later in the day. So, some days we did get days off, but you didn't necessarily know it would be a full day off until the day was done and you hadn't worked.

I didn't like the unpredictability of that sort of schedule. So, instead, I ventured into newspapers, where you work a specific schedule but cover unpredictable events. It seemed a good compromise. Oh, sure, sometimes those unpredictable events have meant canceled plans, like on Sept. 11, 2001, I had been on vacation that week, but got called in to work as the nation and the world tried to come to grips with, and the media tried to cover, the stunning enormity of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and the airline industry.

Agriculture businesses, like my father's, have changed a lot since I was making my career choices. There is a lot more regulation and oversight of things like work schedules, moving the industry closer too general society's "norms." Who knows, maybe if I were making my career choice today I would choose a different path. But, as the saying goes, you have to make hay while the sun shines and in agriculture, you work with the growing seasons and the weather permit it, and you take time off to recreate in the off season.

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