What’s going to happen when Lon retires? He has had a small heart attack and is getting older. His children are about the age to take over or at least to begin to help out, but he has two girls who are getting an education to escape that fate. In fact, in all of Pramote and Lon’s clan, there is not one candidate to take on farming the family acreage.
A generation ago, when Lon and Pramote were little boys the family owned a water buffalo. She provided the muscle-power to pull the plow. About 20 years ago the buffalo died and Lon and his father got by with a borrowed machine to pull the plow. The tractor Lon is using in the picture above was bought when Lon and Pramote acquired more land to be plowed about ten years ago.
It takes three passes to get a rice field ready to accept transplanted seedlings. Rice farming in the traditional way is labor intensive. Lon has been working all day from 9 this morning until 5 this evening and he is just getting done with the first plowing. The area is a little less than 2 rai, or about 8 tenths of an acre.
One of these days he will have to hire the plowing done. We offered to do that today, but Lon refused. Sometime, of course, he will not be able to do the second round of cultivation either, or the planting, or the harvesting. It will all have to be hired done. As it looks, that would eat up the income from the land. It would be cheaper to buy rice to eat than to hire the work done to grow it. Lon will be retired by then.
Predictably, the next step will be for Pramote and Lon to sell the land. That will be the solution for the family. But what about the wider society? In all the villages around here there are few people between the ages of 15 to 30 who aspire to be farmers. The generation between the ages of 30 to 50 is the last generation to have enough farmers. They are supplementing their incomes with part time work in construction, village-level governmental positions, or crafts. When the next generation reaches adulthood they will have salaried positions and live away from here. Not only agriculture, but village life will change radically, and by that I mean it will cease to be community oriented. The social and cultural ramifications could be staggering.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.