Response to “Why on Earth do You Want to Farm 2.0”
My Grandpa’s Farm
I grew up in the same rural Indiana community as the author of the blog linked above. I was inspired to write a response from this country girl-turned city girl-turned country girl’s perspective.
I did not grow up on a farm, but I was surrounded by them. There was a pig farm north of us, horses west of us, and cows south of us. (We could always tell what direction the wind was blowing . . .) I grew up on land that had been in my maternal grandfather’s family for many years. My Grandpa was a farmer. By the time I came along, he farmed only a small part of his own land and the only animals on the farm were two horses and a hen-house full of chickens. However, my Grandma always had a large garden and sometimes we would sell sweet corn and other vegetables from the front yard.
Some of my fondest childhood memories involve sitting in that yard, at the picnic table or on the swing with a big bowl, helping to snap and/or shell beans. We would talk and sing and laugh and forget that we were actually working. I enjoyed helping to plant and then harvest the garden. I also remember riding in the back of Grandpa’s old Chevy pickup truck with a bunch of other kids as we went to the field to help pick sweet corn. The job I DIDN’T like was picking tomatoes. Because inevitably – there would be a gigantic garden spider in the tomato patch, and because I’d been told they were poisonous, I was convinced I would die if I got near one. I even used to have nightmares about those stupid spiders. But, I digress . . .
My Grandma and siblings in a newspaper article about 4-H.
4-H was (and still is) a long-standing tradition in our family and I have cousins currently showing animals at the county fair. I was in 4-H for several years, and enjoyed the meetings, the projects I got to create and the things I learned, the friends I made, and hanging out at the county fair.
In 7th-9th grade, I hung out with a group of farm kids who were a few years older than me. I joined the 4-H Tractor club (one of the only girls) and participated in FFA (I still have my purple corduroy jacket). I was also on the school’s Forestry team and actually LOVED learning about trees and being able to identify them (I still use that knowledge to this day). Around that time is when I learned some pretty hard lessons about teenage friendships. Some of my classmates had inevitably crossed over into the land of “your choice of friends matter to your reputation.” I had friends I’d known my entire life who no longer wanted to hang around with me, because I was hanging out with the “dumb dirt farmers”. (It is still mind-boggling to me that a rural school situated in the midst of farmland with less than 100 kids per grade-level treated farm kids like they were something less than others.) Luckily, I didn’t listen to my peers. I stuck with my farmers. We built a bond that still exists today. When that group of friends graduated, my opportunities for hanging out on the farm with my buddies were fewer and fewer. I went away to college in a larger city and eventually became accustomed to a more urban living existence. I got married and my husband was the exact OPPOSITE of a country boy. We attempted to live in a rural area for about a year – but it drove him crazy, so we eventually settled down in a suburb of a very large city – and I was content. Or so I thought . . .
Fast-forward about ten years to me now, a divorced, single Mom to three kids. I moved back home to be near my family, and the longer I live on this land I grew up on, the more I realize that the country, the land, and farming are a part of who I am. There was a part of me missing and I didn’t even know it. I don’t know how I existed in a place where I couldn’t see the stars as clear as I can seem them now from my front yard. Staring into the vast night sky and knowing how insignificant we are in regards to the expanse of the universe – yet also realizing that even the little things we do can have an impact on those around us and leave a legacy for those who come after.
Just being outside is cathartic for my healing heart. I get excited in the spring when planting begins, and things begin to turn green and grow. New life is popping up everywhere and gives me a “spring” in my step. I feel creative and happy and purposeful. I want to wave at all of the farmers I pass on the road, and thank them for the work they do to keep the world fed. Spring rains don’t depress me, because I know it is helping things grow. And the smell of the land after a spring rain . . . there is nothing like it.
As spring ends, I brace myself for the crazy humidity we deal with in the Midwest. I remember those friends, those boys/almost men who worked hard in the fields, in the barns, and on wagons in that sweltering summer heat baling hay. The “status quo” may tell us to drool over the guy with the even tan, and the six-pack abs developed from countless hours at the gym. I say, there is nothing like a muscled, shirtless farmer with a funky tan covered in dust and perspiration. How could anyone look down on someone who works his ass off every single day, often barely making a living at the most wonderful life that is worth every sweaty brow and sore muscle. There is just nothing sexier than a man who isn’t afraid to work hard for what he loves.
Then, the heat begins to break and the nostalgia kicks in. In our part of the country, everything seems magical in the fall. Flannel/sweatshirts and jeans become the standard dress, the colors of the sunset spread to the trees, and bonfires pop up beside scattered bales of straw where families and friends gathering to enjoy the beauty of the season . . . and harvest. Harvest: the time of year when all of the farming families get to reap the benefits of their year-long toils. The flannel-clad knight riding his silver dragon through a field of gold; collecting the bounty and eventually releasing it like fire into the waiting wagons. I doubt many farmers have imagined themselves as knights while combining – but that is how I see them: noble, brave and true, working late into the evenings to bring in the crops before winter comes with a time of celebration and rest before it starts all over again in the spring.
Thanks to my ancestors, I have well-loved land to live on and a life to live. And thanks to numerous farming family and friends, I know how to drive a tractor, how to pack a wheel bearing, change the oil and change a tire, and even replace spark plugs. I know the joy of planting something and tending to it as it grows and matures and then picking something beautiful and sweet and feeding a family with something I grew. I have milked a cow, watched a mama sow give birth to her babies, learned how to gather eggs without getting pecked by a grumpy hen, coached a dog through her first litter of puppies, and bottle fed baby calves and a litter of kittens. I’ve witnessed and experienced the joys and sorrows of living on a farm. I’ve been thrown from a horse and still found the courage to climb back on again. I know how to roll with the changes this world throws at me, because I can’t control everything anymore than farmers can control the weather. I appreciate the value of hard work and a heart full of song even in the midst of tragedy. It is the simple knowledge that there is something/someone bigger than our humanness who loves us and is watching over us and will balance everything out in the end. The faith of those steadfast farmers, past and present, are the foundation for so much more than land, crops, and animals, but earthly angels who watch over the miracle of life.
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
― Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution
Thank you, farmers.