Sunday, April 29, 2012

What It Means To Be a Farmer

What does being a farmer mean?  This is a question that fewer and fewer people can answer with firsthand knowledge.  For thousands of years, people toiled and sweated on farms; but the world, and America in particular, underwent a seismic population shift in the last century.  Here are a few statistics from www.agclassroom.org. I was born in 1980; in that year, 2.7% of Americans lived on a farm.  In 1960, my dad was two, and he was one of the 8.7% living on a farm.  Both of my grandfathers were born in the Depression, when almost 25% of the population was still on the farm.  In those days, everyone was tied so closely to farming and the rural lifestyle.  Few could envision a day would come when thousands of people would have no idea where their food comes from.  Today, even many of my good friends really have no idea of the lifestyle that my family lives.  While I can in no way peel back all the layers of a farmer's life, here is a quick snapshot of our way of life.

A farm is a place of faith in action.  At his core, a farmer must be a man of faith.  Whether or not he professes a belief in God with his mouth, by his actions he acknowledges Him.  The farmer prepares the soil and carefully places the seed in the ground, knowing full well all the obstacles and circumstances beyond his control that he and that little seed must overcome.  He relies on a loving God to let the sun shine and the rains fall in their seasons.  He knows that he must fight weeds, pests, and disease; but through it all he believes that somehow his efforts and God's blessings will prevail.  And should a bad crop come and things look bleak, his reply is, "Next year will be better."

A farm is also a place of commitment.  I look at farming as somewhat of a calling, like preaching, and it takes a high level of commitment to be successful at either endeavor.  With commitment comes sacrifice.  While there is no better place to raise a family than on a farm, there are certainly sacrifices that must be made.  Long hours are the norm.  Forty hour weeks are scoffed at; many work weeks are twice that long.  During planting and harvest in particular, two critical points when time is so precious, children may go all week with only a few glimpses of Daddy.  As far as the farmer's wife goes, her commitment is double.  She must be able to drop whatever she's doing at a moment's notice and go to town after a part, or ferry her husband between fields, or whip up an extra plate for the seed rep dropping in, or...you get the idea.

Lastly, a farm is a place of fulfillment.  The visual aspect of looking back over a field that you are plowing and seeing the change in it is gratifying in a very basic sense.  I cannot express to you in words the feeling of harvesting a crop that you have done your very best to produce, that you have poured the last few months of your life into.  Knowing that somehow you overcame the weeds, the floods, the drought, and that now God is blessing your efforts with a time of harvest, is very satisfying.

None of the above gets into the daily grind of a farmers life.  It is too varied from farm to farm to be summarized in these few words.   However, the faith, commitment, and fulfillment of farming can be applied to most any farmer, regardless of gender, nationality, or station in life; from the poorest tenant farmer in a third world country to the biggest landowner in America.  Coming from a long line of farmers, I would like to be able to carry this torch that has been handed to me, and hand it down to my son or daughter one day should they choose to farm like their dad.  I hope they do.