Ed loves being a farmer, there is nothing else he has ever wanted to do, or ever would do. A life of hard work, seven days a week, a life of financial struggle, suffocating government regulations, dumb decisions by economists, insane persecution by animal rights activists, sore knees, hips and back, a life enmeshed with all kinds of animals, a life of outdoor work and a close relationship with nature.
After World War II, the government and many economists declared family farms were too small to be efficient in the new economy, and the great migration from rural America to the urban coasts began, and is underway still.
Farmers are still fighting hard to survive, many are losing. Ed Gulley is still hanging on, and he is tough and cured rawhide, and I imagine he will outlast the peckerheads in Washington.
If you talk to Ed for any length of time, he will soon be squawking about the hard life of the farmer. Milk prices are too low, farmers are too passive, nobody understands how hard farmers work, they can't set their own prices, which have not risen in years, they blindly and reflexively produce too much milk and prices can't drop. people do not understand the real lives of real animals and the people who live and work with them.
He was telling me how protesters scream all the time about de-horning cows, but they don't see what cows do to one another when they have horns, the scars and wounds are pitiful.
I tell Ed all the time that all of his laments are true and justified, but I also see that almost every who is not at the top of the financial pecking order can say the same things – artists, writers, factory workers, service workers, Uber drives, police officers, teachers, students with loans, small business people.
For the middle class and down, life has gotten harder, especially since the Great Recession. So many people cannot keep up or fall far behind, especially in rural America. That's a major reason Donald Trump was elected, and God help the people who voted for him thinking their lives will change. I hope he remembers why he was elected and spends less time golfing and tweeting about how wonderful he is to groupies who believe it.
I can assure you he will do nothing for the embattled small farmers and the working class, already hanging on by their calloused and stressed fingertips.
More and more I understand why Communism was so appealing to many people. The capitalist culture can be cruel and heartless and greedy and unrelenting for the powerless and the middle-class. The family that owns Wal-Mart has as much money as the bottom 40 per cent of all Americans.
In the 1930's many farmers were anarchists and populists, and yes, Communists. They had given up on government helping ordinary people. Many people seem to be giving up on that idea again, especially in the country.
It's a wonder the lower and middle classes are not out in the street burning buildings down, as all the money in the world flows upward into an ever shrinking number of hands and bank accounts. What always strikes me is that the farmers and working men and women and fast-food workers and teaches and police officers and African-Americans and gays and trans people never realize that they are not unique, they are all in the same boat.
They all suffer from the same things. This division and obliviousness is great for the CEO's and the wealthy. There is not a farmer alive who does not see the effects of climate change every day, and who doesn't know what it will do to the farm. But I have yet to hear one speak up about it.
Every writer or factory worker or poor African-American and so many women can make the same argument Ed can make, but each group seems to think they are unique in their suffering, they never seem to grasp the idea of linking up with others, so every group is not too small and impoverished and disorganized to bring about real change – the kind of change billionaire will, by definition, never want to make.
Billionaires are not in the habit of burning themselves at the stake. That's why there are heretics and peasants.
I've been photographing and writing about farmers for years, and they are fiercely individualistic and increasingly abandoned and overwhelmed, I can't imagine them organizing in a powerful or political way. When the farmers of France get screwed over, they drive their tractors into Paris and dump tons of manure in front of Parliament. People pay attention to that.
I can't imagine American farmers every doing that in Washington, they are just too busy, or perhaps too cowed, and they are by nature allergic to organizing and joining things or blogging on Facebook and Twitter. Ed is an exception, his wonderful blog is red-hot.
Farmers are horrible at speaking out for themselves in general. Did any one of the score of presidential candidates ever once mention the plight of the small farmer in America? Not even once, even in passing? Perhaps there is something to be said for lobbyists.
The same things farmers complain about can be said for many of the other groups feeling beleaguered and left behind and pressured. One day, perhaps on Facebook, or Twitter they will stumble across one another and forge a new Army so powerful it cannot be ignored.
I think Ed will be right out front with his tractor, pitchfork and pile of manure. I'd love to go on that march.