“There is an ever-increasing number of people, but the amount of land does not increase, therefore the amount of land per capita decreases, and one farm should offer both ownership and visitorship. Everyone needs — in fact, must have — occasional reacquaintance with the land.” — Rachel Peden, “The Land, The People”
In 1966, when Rachel Peden was penning a newspaper column that would evolve in to several books, she lamented the fact that many people were losing touch with their country roots.
She writes, “There is a vogue just now, in this era of the survival struggle of the small family farm, for small farms to become recreation places commercially. This, it seems to be, requires a specialized talent and actually places the farm in the category of hotel and resort business. Not everyone could make a success of it, or wishes to try.”
It would have been around 1970 when my parents agreed to be a stop on our county’s very first ‘drive-it-yourself tour’ and we quickly learned what it meant to host people from all walks of life.
I remember milking the herd one evening and being interrupted a number of times by total strangers from the city asking questions that seemed ridiculous and baffling. “How many times a week do you have to do this? Even on Sundays? What would happen if you took the day off? Would the cow just blow up?”
Much to see
Although we didn’t realize it at the time, our wide-open farm offered much to see, from dairy cattle and a farrow-to-finish hog operation, to a well-stocked farm pond, old barns filled with farm machinery, all well-kept, fields filled with Indian artifacts to be found after plowing, plenty of wildlife, woods to explore, even a stream running through the remote acreage that had bubbles of quicksand in it. But sometimes, a fellow just really didn’t want to share it.
One irony of farmers is that the personality traits that drive them to desire a country life can also make sharing it almost painful: there is often a quiet and stubborn pride, at times a dose of shyness, more work than there is daylight, and always, always, there is the crushing weight of exhaustion.
Though much has changed in the world, one thing has not. Peden writes of visitors from the city, “If they had to wait until we get everything in order, the time would never come.”
Much like a house that is never quite clean and tidy enough, if we waited until the farm was in some sort of perfect state to host visitors, it would never happen.