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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Farmer Optimism

It’s a tough road at times, this life we live and the work we do.  But there is always something to be positive about and grateful for, even in the darkest of days.  I recently read that they say a farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer, and it’s absolutely true.

As a farmer’s daughter and farmer’s wife, I’ve been a part of a lot of optimistic rituals in my life—praying, positive attitude, rain dances hard life lessons and more praying. 

In the 1990s, I was devastated when we sold all of our pigs.  The market was bad and we had to invest and concentrate on other areas of the farm.  This was a lesson in economics at a young age, I guess you could say which has helped me in my adult life.

In the flood of 2008, when I watched my dad look out over our flooded fields I thought all hope was gone.  Then he took us home and said, “Mother Nature is not very kind sometimes, but there isn’t anything we can do about it.  It’s just part of it.  We are safe up here on the hill with good people, food and beer.  We will figure it out.”

In 2009, my dad died during harvest and my family still had to go on.  The local family farmers brought optimism back to our farm as they arrived with their trucks to fill up loads of grain to take to market.  That dark day turned out to be okay, even without him.    

In the drought of 2012, I experienced heartbreak on a daily basis when no rain would fall or heat lightening gave me false hope for a storm that I would have gladly welcomed.  I asked my husband if he wanted to do rain dances like I used to do when I was a kid.  I got “the look” if you know what I mean, but I danced a lot when he wasn’t watching.

And today, it’s the commodity markets.  Prices are down, inputs are high, there are too many regulatory and trade issues that farmers are dealing with, and it’s all a dark reality each day as we approach the planting season. 

For the farmer, planting and harvesting is inevitable.  No matter what Mother Nature will bring, how the markets will pan out or what obstacles God will lay before him, our farmers still have to wake up each day to face the day because there is no other way or another life they would rather live.
It’s really hard to explain to someone that doesn’t live on a farm that your daily life revolves around the ground below you, weather, market, crops, animals and the daily work around you.  It’s a constant worry and a constant blessing that I don’t take for granted because as dad would say, “it’s just part of it”.

There are so many people these days that lack optimism.  It’s not surprising with all the political rhetoric, daily negative stories on the news and more.  However, when I sit for just a moment and look around me, there is a lot to be optimistic about.  I hear the new calves bawling in the pasture behind our house—a sign of new life.  I see green, lots of green (finally!)—a sign of a new season.  And I am reminded of the positive things in my life—which bring me happiness and hope.  The optimism is there, we just have to slow down at times to see it and feel it.

I don’t know where or when I found this quote but it sits on my desk as a daily reminder, 
“The one who cultivates and lives always in the optimistic, cheerful, hopeful habit of mind and heart can never fail.”

As our farmers face a new season ahead cultivating the land and caring for the crops with little known to them about what Mother Nature may bring, how the markets will go or what the crop may look like, they will still try to find a way to remain optimistic.  They have to for their livelihoods, their families, future generations and for you. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Tradition of Trash & Treasure

It’s been a spring tradition in my family for awhile.  It’s something I have never complained about, usually enjoy and am always proud to do.  I wear my most worn boots, that just happen to be covered in green and pink flowers that have faded from the cow manure and mud.  And each time before heading out the door I put my hair up, find my gloves and grab the white bag. 

As I make my way down the drive, I say a little prayer that I won’t find much.  I mean surely people remember what we learned in school, have some decency and respect other people’s things.  However, I am usually wrong.  Each time I bend down to pick up that beer bottle, fast food bag, the old cigarette butts and much more, I am disappointed.  I am disappointed that I have to pick up someone else’s trash on my family’s property.  

Yes, picking up trash is the tradition.  It has become a farm chore it seems as people pass through the countryside and enjoy the beauty but empty their trash along the way.  They have no care about maintaining the land or respect for who might care for it. 

My love of the land runs deep. I’ve written before about a favorite quote of mine that I was taught at a young age, “The land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, 
because it's the only thing that lasts”.

So when I see that someone has discarded their trash in our fields and pastures I get angry, upset and disappointed.  When I sense the laziness of the people that discard waste onto someone’s property, it makes me want to work harder to protect our land and advocate for agriculture more.  A lot of people don’t think farmers work to preserve the land, but they do in so many ways.  We are the ones that want the land to last for generations to come.

As we were passing yet another field with trash in it recently, I went on one of my rages.  My husband is used to it now and let’s me get it all out before asking, “are you okay?”  He then calmly puts some thoughtfulness and sense to it all.  As he pointed to one of our fields he said, “People don’t understand that that's our garden. It's just massive. But we still care for every seed and every plant.  I can’t go pick every weed by hand but we try to do the best we can to take care of the land, our garden.”  I reacted with some crazy hand gesture and yelled, “Yes!  The fields are our gardens and the pastures are like our yards.  Why can’t people understand, respect and appreciate that?!”  He gave me that “I’m sure you will figure it out” look and turned up the radio. 

I thought, maybe they didn’t learn about this beautiful earth and abundant land in school and that we should care for it on many levels.  Maybe their moms and dads didn’t teach them about respecting other people’s property.  As a farm girl and agriculture advocate who loves this land, maybe I can be a greater example this spring when I walk more pastures and fields to collect the trash. 

I’m sure picking up a few more pieces won’t hurt me, but I do think I need a new pair of boots so you can see the bright flowers as you pass me and enjoy the fields full of sprouting crops and the bright green pastures.  I’ll help to make it last so your kids and grandkids can enjoy it too.