Lessons learned from my father


“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or gather fallen grapes. Leave them for the neighbor, the poor, the foreigner.”

— Leviticus 19:9,10

One of the lessons my dad taught us has stayed with me all these years. With no doubt, his priority was to be a good man to his wife and children, but right up there in his consideration was to be a good neighbor.

I appreciate receiving the nicest letter from a Farm and Dairy reader who grew up from little on up as a neighbor to my dad. James Schweyer remembers my father as a kind young man and a considerate farm neighbor.

Sharing a boundary of two fields, James said my dad approached him and his brother about planting right up to one another’s field line to help keep weeds from being a problem for either. And when a fellow came to spread lime on Dad’s field, he had misunderstood that the open ground was actually separately owned and spread the entirety of the acreage.

Dad let the neighboring brothers know of the situation, and it was not a problem. James, who had lost his father at a young age, said he appreciated the kindness shown by my grandfather, and my father, as he and his brother kept their family farm going.

It was a letter that moved me to tears, knowing that all these years later, the good spirit of my father lives on in memories of those other than just his family.

One of the things Dad taught us was the importance of being big-hearted, not only with friends and neighbors but even with wildlife. He left a couple of rows of corn stand when completing harvest in the fall, saying the birds and the deer might go hungry without it, and adding it to his grain bin wouldn’t make much difference. Letting wildlife have it might make all the difference through a long winter.

We just returned from a family trip to a quiet and quaint beach in North Carolina, staying in the same home we have enjoyed for a week at a time in various years. One of the locals has told me that they get a bit upset when visitors bring huge buckets to the beach and gather up every shell they can find, not leaving some for others to enjoy discovering.

I believe it is important to walk through this life with an unselfish heart, whether it is in the small or the weighty ways. Leave small footprints, and share a bounty with all.


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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, and three grandchildren.



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