To say man is of the earth and that his well-being, even his very survival, depends on an occasional return to it is not enough. It is important to try to find out why this is true.
Some people, those most distantly removed from farm living, accomplish the necessary return by going to parks, visiting farm friends and relatives, walking on grass in their own yards, or reading a book about country living.
For others, notably farmers, a mere occasional return to the land is not enough. These people have a deep, insatiable passion to be close to the land; they are willing to gamble their strength and ingenuity on its response.
– Rachel Peden, The Land, The People
By JUDITH SUTHERLAND
Farm and Dairy columnist
For many, this is the season for cozy sweaters, snap-crackling fires, friends gathering. It is the end of holding on tightly to the hope of sunny days with a little taste of leftover summer.
As October bows to November, every farmer I know is itching to complete the work of harvest. It is the end game, the wrapping up of another season of hard work, and until it is done, nothing else matters.
Watching combines move across fields in the haze of autumn, there is the realization of hard work tempered with accomplishment, grain prices standing strong, as another season closes.
As a kid, this was the time of year that made working feel like play. There was nothing like climbing the ladder to the gravity wagons, diving in to the hopper filled with shelled corn. No matter how long I live, I will always be able to recall the scent and the feel of jumping in to that moist, cool expanse of bright golden corn.
While dad worked at the bins, it was our job to keep the corn flowing toward the auger below. As the wagon emptied, my sisters and I would slide around in the slick wagon, brushing every bit of corn toward the slightly opened hatch door.
I recall years when the corn dust was so thick it was suffocating, and other years when the moisture content stayed so high we would climb out of the wagon feeling like we’d walked through a rain shower.
Dad was constantly checking moisture content and figuring how much drying down the crop was going to cost. We would hear him up late at night, going out to the grain bins to transfer corn from one bin to another, preparing for another busy day when the sun came up.
And in between all of this, the herd of Holsteins still needed lots of attention and twice-daily milking. Much of that time, he was also running a small farrow-to-finish hog operation, sometimes buying young feeder pigs to add to the hog lot at our home place.
Later in his life, he said he never could have done it all without everyone in the family pitching in and working right along with him. That said, he also acknowledged that those were the happiest times of his life.
The farmers I’ve known seem to carry this much in common: the harder they work, the happier they seem to be. There is a connection to their accomplishments running deep in their veins. Unlike other types of work, farming’s success reflects strongly back on the entire family.
When all is said and done, seasons come and go, but each connects us to the land and keeps us going, preparing each for another challenging cycle when a new season begins.