It all comes back to the farmer

“I would rather spend a month in prison, than a year working on a farm.” – direct quote from the 16 year old son of a friend.

That quote got me to thinking…about quotes. I wonder where his idea of farming has come from? Did he grow up next to a factory hog farm, was he picked on by local farm kids on his way to school? And where did he get his ideas about prison?

“Old farmers never retire, they are just put out to pasture”bumper sticker on an old Chevy truck. 

Farmers like to do it in the dirt”  -bumper sticker on a Subaru.

Now that I am in my 50th year, with all but about 10 of them involved in farming, I can not think of a more rewarding lifestyle!  You are surrounded by living, breathing and ever changing plot of soil. You have a hand in shaping, feeding, and caring for this plot. It rewards you with not only food, shelter, and space. but also it is a bond or connection. Like any human relationship, you can’t take it for granted, it takes much thought and effort. In the end you have a partner, and a good working relationship.

“Agriculture probably required a far greater discipline than did any form of food collecting. Seeds had to be planted at certain seasons, some protection had to be given to the growing plants and animals, harvests had to be reaped, stored and divided. Thus, we might argue that it was neither leisure time nor a sedentary existence but the more rigorous demands associated with an agricultural way of life that led to great cultural changes.”

-Charles Bixler Heiser from Seed to Civilization: the story of food


“A farmer would have to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.” -Will Rogers

Will loading hay on elevator


4 responses to “It all comes back to the farmer

  1. When I was 16 I would have completely agreed with your son’s friend. Well – maybe not the prison part, but I definitely knew that farming sucked. I was raised in town in Colorado and I spent about a month a year in Kansas on my Grandpa’s dairy farm. Kansas is a hot, sweaty place in the middle of summer, and a frozen, no-man’s land in winter, so that may have had something to do with my idea of farming. My impression of farming from my Grandpa was that it was back-breaking work and that most of the equipment was constantly breaking too. Is there anything worse than crawling around on a broken-down combine, in 105 degree heat, in the middle of a scratchy wheat field, trying to figure out how to patch the machine back together?

    When he was in his 60s and I was 12, my Grandpa may even have agreed with that 16 year old.
    At least he often told me how hard the life of a farmer was, and that stuck with me for a long time. That’s why I do what I do, teaching cows to eat weeds, because I thought it would be at least one thing that would make a farmer’s life easier.

    A lot of western rancher have that same crusty attitude, so imagine my surprise when I started traveling to ag conferences in the east and northeast, meeting farmers who love what they do and who made me want to be just like them. Today, in my 53rd year, I’m with you Will! I’m a semi-urban farmer with my own flock of egg layers, raising meat chickens through the summer, and adding more and more raised beds of veggies to my former lawn.

    I came, like most of us do, from generations of farmers, and now the land calls me back so strongly that there is no way I cannot answer. I’m glad to be a “farmer” and NOT in prison! 🙂

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