Jan 9, 2009

The worst job?

The Tuesday, January 6, 2009 edition of the Wall Street Journal (favorite publication of dairy farmers everywhere) had a most intriguing article. This article reviewed a study that ranked the best and worst jobs in America. Dairy Farmer actually made the list! This study determined that dairy farmer was the second worst job in America to have.

Alrighty then. Time for a change of plans. Let's dust off that ole resume.

The study looked at the jobs on the basis of five different criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. Interestingly enough when you look at the best ten and the worst ten some intrinsic differences are immediately apparent. The top ten are all largely desk jobs. The bottom ten all involve physical labor. The top ten involve advanced education, in many cases several degrees worth of advanced. The bottom ten for the most part involved either trade or vocational school or old-fashioned apprenticeship. The top ten involved jobs that would be well served by the "job search portal" that released the study whereas employment in the bottom ten will be gained the old-fashioned way; by starting at the bottom, at a job that likely your father or uncles also had and getting your hands calloused and rough by the doing.

The worst jobs are all jobs that we are all told by concerned parents that we need to go to college to avoid. They are jobs that those in the best ten are thankful that someone else is there to perform the jobs so that they don't have to.

These studies are great at promoting the idea of a genteel society where everyone has multiple degrees and doesn't have to dirty their hands (except at their hobbies) and lives "the good life". (These studies are also good at promoting the services of the organization that releases them, nothing like job security, huh?)

So...if this is true, why do we keep hearing at almost every single farm tour "this is great, I wish I could do this"?

Let's go back and look at those five criteria. Perhaps I missed something.

Environment. We have to work outside. No comfy lumbar-support chairs in our personally decorated cubes. It gets hot outside. We sweat. Or cold outside and our toes might get wet when sloshing through mud puddles when it is cold and rainy. We do not get to live in our temperature controlled environments, going from our 73 degree home to 73 degree car to 73 degree office. We are stuck with the weather, whatever it is. If it happens to be a brisk 38 degrees when that baby kid is finally born we have to be there to rub it off with towels and make sure that it stays warm while watching it totter and stumble around while finding out that it's feet belong underneath him. If it is really bad we sometimes have to tuck it in our jacket to warm it up while it tries to nurse off of our chin. It is rough. It's really hard to work while giggling.

Income. Now that one is true. We don't have the highest income. Not only that, but our income is not stable in that an employer tells us what it is and guarantees to maintain it. It is entirely up to us, how hard we work, how fast we expand, where we sell. We don't even have the luxury of being able to budget items like commutes, and business attire.

Employment outlook. Phew. No assurance of stable employment. All we have to pin our future security on is the fact that the goats will keep having babies and making milk. And pray that people will keep drinking milk. Some days it is really stressful knowing that we might go out to that milk room and be told by Cinnamon the Alpine that she is really sorry, but with the economy being what it is, our position has been eliminated.

Physical demands. This is a rough career. In an office setting you don't have to put up your own cube and the IT guy is there to set up your computer. Here, there is much in the way of physical labor, hauling feed sacks and hay bales, putting up fences, delivering baby goats. The work doesn't end there. Being a family business, there is also teaching your children the ins and outs of the family business. Teaching that six year old how to carry water to plant "her" trees that will someday tower over her and having to walk that fence line with your teenager and listen to them talk. And talk. And talk. You don't even usually have time left over for a gym membership!

Stress. Well, I have to admit that they got that one right as well. It is stressful beyond description to sit at the side of a goat in labor and wonder how many babies there are. The anxiety of watching your daughter walk into the show ring with a doe that she delivered herself, raised, groomed and has such high hopes for. The nerve-wracking experience of handing someone a sample cup of milk at the farmer's market and waiting...how will they receive the fruits of your labor?

SO, after reviewing our life I have to conclude that the article is dead on. Dairy farming is the second worst job in America today.

At least that is what we want everyone else to believe...we don't need a nation of people leaving their cubes to come milk goats (or cows). That WOULD hinder my job security. Plus, those other jobs? Those top ten jobs? I am really thankful that someone else is here to perform those jobs so that I don't have to...I don't think I'd like being an actuary or statistician very much.

Reading the article I am also humbled by the sacrifice that my husband made, squandering his degree to leave that cube, commute and job security to enter the second worst profession in America.

So...from those of us in the trenches at the second worst profession in America...its really rough down here, but we are glad to serve.


Blue Heron Farm said...

Welcome to the blogosphere!

Nice topic. I miss my grey cube so much. So, so much. And eating ramen at my gray desk in the four minutes I have between meetings? Crave it.

missmama said...

Great post. I saw a best and worst job list as well. Im not sure if it was the same one. Childcare worker was also one the worst jobs list. How sad. I, having worked in childcare for 8+ years, (and have since then decided to *never* leave my child in a daycare of any kind) found this very very sad. I think, unfortunately, for some people it will always be about a pay check and physical comfort, and others will look for a deeper kind of reward. I feel your disappointment.

(We have recently discovered your milk at the Urban Harvest Farmers markets and love it. Thank you for putting so much hard work into making what we like to call "real" milk. We really appreciate it.)