This week is National FFA Week. (And for those who don’t know – that’s Future Farmers of America).
The celebration means a little more to us this year. You see, my niece, Jessie, was very active in FFA all through high school and she is continuing to be active in her collegiate FFA chapter.
Thinking about FFA Week – about the future of our young farmers – drew my thoughts around to the farmers of yesterday.
One of the most hard-working farmers I’ve ever met also happens to be my dad.
He came from a long line of farmers. In his high school yearbook under the line that asked what he planned to be, he simply listed a farmer.
And it’s what he did.
He and my mother married young, moved away from their families, and worked on a variety of farms and ranches until they saved enough money to buy their own farm.
They lived on that land for fifty-one years.
Daddy worked hard and expected all of us to give our best as well. He was most often up long before the first rays of sunshine would streak the morning sky and could be found out laboring until there was no longer any daylight to work by.
In the summers, if I wanted to spend time with my dad, I went with him to irrigate. I accompanied him many times in his semi-truck when he’d deliver a load of hay (the sleeper in the cab was a perfect place for my baby dolls to ride.) There was a time when all the guys at the parts counter at the John Deere dealer probably knew me by name because I would ride along with dad to go on a parts run. He always bought an icy cold glass bottle of Coca Cola from the vending machine and we’d share it while we waited for his parts order to be filled.
My mother thinks Daddy was one of the few farmers who had a four-year-old in pigtails asleep on a pink blanket at his feet while he swathed hay. I think he was probably one of many who spent time with their kids anyway they could, even if it meant having them underfoot while they swathed, baled, or combined. As I got older, I went from just tagging along to having chores to do, and then taking on more responsibility and work.
My dad didn’t just want to be a farmer, he needed to be a farmer. He loved farming, loved the land and loved his family – and to him they were all intermingled and entwined. Farming was as essential to him as air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat. It was never a job to him. It was a way of life. His life – and all he ever wanted to do or be.
What I learned growing up on a farm, besides how to precisely set irrigation tubes of all sizes, move sprinkler hand lines, and buck hay bales, was responsibility, loyalty, and perseverance. If things aren’t going just like you want, you don’t quit and walk away. My dad taught me that you figure out how to make it work. I learned all about multi-tasking, time management, and organizational skills by watching and working with my dad.
Lessons learned while I was working on the farm are ones you can’t find in a classroom, you can’t glean them from a Google search, and you can’t duplicate them without the experience that goes along with the lessons. Daddy taught me by example. By watching him, day after day, pour his all into what he loved, I learned so many life lessons that have served me well over the years.When people call me tenacious, I smile, because I learned it from my dad.
For those of you who may not have seen a Ram commercial that aired a few years ago during the Super Bowl, I encourage you to watch it. It is a tribute to farmers – past, present and future.
When you do watch it, notice the farmer’s hands that are worn and with broken, split nails. Those hands look exactly how I remember my dad’s hands always looking. Always. His hands were rough and callused, weathered and worn. Most often there was grease staining his skin, soil embedded under his nails (the ones that weren’t broken or missing), and at least one knuckle would be scraped raw. As rough as those hands were, they were such a comfort to grab onto when I was a child and needed a little reassurance. A farmer’s hands seem to have the magical qualities of being able to pull a calf, repair a piece of equipment, and gently wipe away the tears of a little girl all within a morning’s work.
Being a farmer in today’s world is no easy thing. People have forgotten how hard a farmer toils, how much he brings to the table both figuratively and literally. Farmers and ranchers, to me, are the ties that bind us to something infinitely precious that so often goes unacknowledged and unappreciated.
The next time you pour a glass of milk from the carton in your fridge, eat a piece of meat, crack open an egg, butter a slice of bread, or enjoy a juicy piece of fruit, stop for a minute and say thank you to the farmer who made it possible.
And if you have the opportunity to encourage our farmers of tomorrow, please let them know you appreciate them and support their dreams.
So God Made A Farmer – by Paul Harvey
And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.
“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark.” So God made a farmer.
It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.
“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer.