As the month of September moves along, I have been out in the field interviewing a number of farmers about the future of agriculture in Kentucky. Then, back in front of the television, I keep hearing about how the job market for recent college graduates is abysmal. The big cry of the day is “I can’t find a job”. So after several weeks of research I would like to share my experiences and offer these depressed young people a bit of advice: Don’t get a job, create one.
All of our lives we have heard how America is the place you can become anything you want to become. It is the land of opportunity, where the sky is the limit. But as more and more young people move farther away from the farm, these common beliefs about America have taken on a new meaning.
What these young people want to become is “wealthy.” For them the word “opportunity” is synonymous with “employment opportunity.” And when they hear that the “sky’s the limit” they think in terms of how high their salary might climb. And all of these perversions of cultural truisms have had a profound impact on how they see the world and why “owners” of companies and “job creators” are no longer seen as examples of American success. It is why they are now seen as “the enemy” of those at the bottom struggling to get to the top.
When I was a boy, the men in our town who owned their own businesses were the pillars of our community. Their ingenuity and work ethic were things that were held up as examples for us to follow. The corner grocer took pride in his cuts of meat. The barber had fun blending tradition with new methods to keep a loyal following. The hardware store owner was a fountain of knowledge about every project you might consider starting. And the local doctor knew you since you were born and didn’t need a room full of charts to remember your medical history.
For others growing up in America, living in rural communities, the men who farmed their land took great pride in their crops, their barns, their equipment and their land. They tended to their animals with concern for their well-being; they were quiet, frugal, strong and confident. They were often portrayed as the hard working, self-reliant symbol of America.
Even if you lived in the suburbs it was likely that your granddad or your uncle owned a farm. Most boys of my generation had at least some experience on a farm, even if only for a few days in the summer. But the notion of farming was soon lost as the pursuit of jobs in air conditioned offices became more appealing than those on the hot seat of a tractor in a dusty field.
Yet as I have spent time out traveling and talking with farmers across Kentucky, I have combined my observations of how their lives contrast even more sharply today with the desires of the next generation than they did with mine. The farmer doesn’t complain about lack of work. There is always work to be done. And so it occurred to me whether in today’s world there might be hope for our children lying fallow just outside of town as they eye the horizon for a “job” somewhere and worry how they will ever become wealthy if somebody doesn’t hire them, and give them a paycheck.
So, over the next few weeks I will be writing more about the success stories of those who seized the opportunity to go back to the farm, find new products and services in demand by the public or created new demand by their own innovation, and instead of waiting around for a job to open up, went out and created a career for themselves, a lifestyle for their families, became their own boss and now work their own schedules, sometimes writing paychecks to others, as the resurgence of the American dream sprouts anew from the rich soil of Kentucky farmland.
I hope you will come back, stay with me and share the inspiration these folks can give as I relate the stories of our fellow Americans who set the course for their own future when they decided to not get a job.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com, is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.