Mark Smith

  • United States, ME, Unity

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Mark Smith Unity, ME
1 month ago
Great article, but missed a key element in my opinion. As a retired veteran (formally trained diesel mechanic) now pursuing an Agriculture degree and working towards a career in soil science (long family line of agriculture and military), I work on a farm, and am interning at a soil science lab. In both cases I see a significant lack of trade skills necessary for agriculture. Since I have been on this path, I see these skills continuing to disappear at an alarming rate. Consider the added overhead when basic mechanical repairs/mechanical problem solving that would traditionally be done on-farm are now outsourced at around $125/hour or more (average repair rate for farm machinery in my area). I am beginning to believe that just because someone with a good heart and he ebst of intentions can plant and organize a satisfactory crop rotation plan doesn't mean they can also develop a sustainable farm business.
Gregory Heilers Union City, CA
1 month ago

This is a great point, Mark. I totally agree that trade skills are "endangered." The stereotypical "farm laborer" certainly possesses some of these skills, and I appreciate your point that outsourcing those is very costly.

On the farm I have most recent experience working on, my dad's lucky to have a wonderful jack of all trades. This man has his own shop a dozen miles from the farm, where he can repair almost any malfunctioning machinery, and he just charges the $20/hr he does for any other work on farm. That same work done in town would cost significantly more, plus you'd need to add time and fuel costs for loading, hauling, and unloading the equipment - both ways.

I think Joel Salatin was also, in part, speaking to your point when he mentioned that he'd “take the guy who can move 5,000 chickens in 60 minutes with nothing more than a hand dolly over the technocrat.” The quote taken out of context doesn't perfectly align, but I believe the sentiment is similar.

I appreciate your thoughts, and the fact that you are bringing a wealth of expertise to an industry that certainly will benefit from it!

1 replies
Pat Rogers Blenheim, SC
1 month ago

@Mark Smith Just to add to your point, since the labor pool in general is supplying less and less numbers of trade skilled workers, that $125/hr repair rate is only going to continue to escalate. Simple supply and demand dictates that there's going to be more asymmetry in the future if this trend continues.

1 replies