Hard work, embracing change pays dividends on the farm

The ever-evolving world in which we live sometimes seems to be changing faster than the blink of an eye. Consider what our great-grandparents would think if they could see global positioning systems used in many facets of agriculture, cell phones with the capability to answer any imaginable question in just a moment.

Many years ago, I wrote a series of articles based on entries gleaned from the diary of a man who lived and worked in this community. Alexander, a wonderfully observant man, began his diaries at the close of the Civil War, with the final entry written in 1907.

The world changed

One thing I remember most when I think of his life is that the world changed, like shifting sand, just as it does for us all today. He had built up a highly-profitable day stable in the city, so that when people came from various locales to do business in the county seat, he and his staff served as valet, farrier, groom and board for the folks’ horses.

He wisely positioned his business near the county courthouse, close to a variety of shops, churches, a bank and a post office. His blacksmith forge attached to the boarding stables was one of the finest around, and people sought out this man for his good business sense, as well as a keen eye for equine needs.

Began fretting

With the very first automobile purchased by a wealthy citizen, Alexander began fretting.

“Surely this fancy will pass swiftly by, as no one can count on a machine as they can a horse,” he wrote.

Within three short years, Alexander went from being the most successful businessman in the entire county, to a man struggling to meet his bills and feed his family. No one I know embraces the changing tide, but those who are able to foresee it, accept it and find a way to evolve with it are the strongest mentally and physically.

Studies have been done to prove it. I grew up hearing that diversification and a steady determination was the key to survival on a family farm.

We lived through lean dairy years in which the farrow-to-finish hog business paid the bills. Other years, there was strong concentration on building the dairy herd.

Nothing is certain

Capital improvements were made along the way when there was enough cash flow to justify it. Nothing was squandered, because all along life’s way, nothing is certain in agriculture.

My father said many times that he realized he came of age at a prime time for a young man, married to my mother in 1951, and working a full-time job until 1959, farming at night and weekends. At that time, a small family farm managed to grow and prosper if a fellow kept his eye on the balance sheet.

They rented a farm with a very simple home, with no running water, an outhouse in the back. Over many years, that house became our comfortable home. Rental payments finally convinced the owners, an elderly couple from Canton, that this young couple was worthy of owning the wife’s home place.

I have a vague memory of the day my parents signed papers, a copy of the land deed a most prized possession. One of the greatest things my parents instilled in us is the appreciation of the land, joy in work, pride in accomplishment.

We were taught that the things which will mean the most to us are the things for which one works the hardest. I carry that with me, still.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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