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“Yes, we’d love to come to your barbecue! But only if it’s raining.”

“What? We were supposed to RSVP? Well, we’re here now! And there’s always room for one more at a wedding, right?”

If you’ve found yourself saying one of those lines or something like them, maybe you’re a farmer. (Or at least married to one.)

Commitment phobia

Our farmer friends get it. Most of them don’t even bother inviting us to events that take place in May, August or September. At least not if they’re going to need us to decide in advance if we can make it or not. Even in July, if you call farmer friends to cancel a get-together at the last minute, as soon as you mumble a sentence that includes the word “sprayer,” they’ll generally understand right away. Best of all, they’re more likely to be sympathetic than angry. They’ve been there.

Farm work has to be done at the right time. That’s all there is to it. A large part of our annual income could hinge on spraying at just the right day in July. If the canola is ready to swath, it’s ready to swath — canola doesn’t care if all of our friends are going camping, or someone planned a family reunion.

As much as farm spouses might complain about this fact of life, I can’t imagine anybody really wants to be married to someone who wants to go fishing with his friends in the middle of harvest.

If every farmer only had other farmers as friends and relatives, things would be just fine. We could all hold last-minute, weather-dependent get-togethers in the summer, and save anything that needs advance planning for the coldest winter months.

But, occasionally, we find ourselves having to mix with the outside world.

This can be socially awkward.

Not just because we have a habit of talking about the weather for hours on end. But because it’s so hard for us to commit to anything that involves actually leaving the farm for more than a few hours.

Non-farmers just don’t know how much anxiety they cause when they call us in the middle of May and ask us if we’re going to want to go to the lake with them on the September long weekend.

I lived in the city before I married my husband and moved to his farm. My city friends still invite us to occasional events. Sometimes these events are planned for summer, when it’s pretty likely that we’re not going to be able to make it to Regina. Usually, our friends want us to commit in advance. Not that they’re nosy, or bossy. It’s generally just a matter of practicality. People who organize a group event need to know how many tickets to buy, how many meals to order or how many canoes to rent.

There are a few possible strategies for dealing with this problem.

1. Just say yes

If you’re invited to an event you really want to go to, just saying you’ll be there can work. Heck, maybe it will turn out that at least one of you will be able to go.

When it comes time to get in the car and actually leave the farm for the event, if it works out you just can’t do it, and the friend who invited you is the type that won’t understand how swathing flax could possibly take priority over her formal wedding, you can always make something up. “Really! Diphtheria is going around out here like crazy! We sure don’t want to spread it to your family.”

If you go with this strategy, try these tips.

  •  It’s best to save this one for events that are in July (or whatever summer month you’re most likely to be able to get away from your farm operation.) It’s really not fair to use this one in mid-August, when it’s highly unlikely you’re going to show up.
  •  Try not to use it for events that have cost the hosts a lot of money. The more expensive that plate of roast chicken you’re not eating, the longer they’re likely to hold the grudge.
  •  If both spouses are too busy at the farm to make the party, it’s really not ok to drop off your small children at the party in your place. (Unless the hosts are very good friends.)
  •  If only one of you can go, read the crowd before telling anyone why you’re there on your own. In some groups, lots of people will understand “Jim’s in the combine.” In other circles, if the truth is “Jim had to fix the grain cart,” telling the truth will not make you popular. In those cases, consider making up something that they’ll find less offensive, something that will be more likely to keep you on the guest list for future events. Something less socially damaging, like, “Jim’s having an affair with the neighbour’s wife.”
  •  If only one of you can go, and it’s a camping trip, you might want to practise setting up the tent on your own before the trip. Trust me.

2. Plead ignorance

Or, as I like to call it, “invitation evasion.”

Who hasn’t done this? The longer you wait to respond, the better your odds of knowing for sure whether you’ll be able to attend or not.

If it’s an informal event, people won’t care. If they even notice. Especially if you bring something.

Pretending not to have known that you were supposed to RSVP to an event can definitely work.

But, just so you know, you’ll only try this strategy for formal weddings at the Glencoe Club in downtown Calgary once. The whole experience will be a mortifying fiasco involving horrified staff, evil glares from the bride’s mother and last-second chairs at the kids’ table at the back. (Don’t ask how I know.)

If this strategy should backfire, your best hope for finding sympathy is to find a chair next to a single friend who’s just started dating — someone at that confusing stage of the relationship where it’s too soon to know if you’ll be going to the next wedding on your own, or if you should write in that “two” will be attending when you reply to the invitation.

3. Just say no

There are always those people who really, really need to have all the minor details — like how many people are coming — before they can plan any event, whether it’s a formal anniversary dinner or an outdoor bonfire. (You know who you are.)

If one of these people invites you to something in an iffy time of year, do everyone a favour, and just say no. Especially if it’s the kind of event where planners really do need an accurate head count.

It’s entirely possible that you’ll find yourself home on the farm on a rainy August weekend while everyone else you know is living it up at the Radisson. Really, there are worse worst-case scenarios. And an evening at home watching movies with your spouse can beat being left off the guest list for years to come.

That’s outstanding

It’s that time of year again. Read about Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers on pages 36 to 42 of this issue. Seven young farm families from B.C. to Atlantic Canada involved in everything from organics to wine are profiled in this issue. As you read these success stories, you’re sure to find something to motivate you to take that next step on your farm.

This issue features grain marketing. On the front page and on to page four, Angela Lovell has written about selling grain into the U.S. in this new marketing environment.

Lots of market advisers tell you to get into the futures and options market. In this very magazine, last spring, market adviser Neil Blue suggested that farmers buy put options to set a floor price for their crop. In this issue, Neil Blue boldly goes back to look at that recommendation and how it would have turned out in the real world. Find that on page 12.

I hope you enjoy this issue. †

Leeann

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