[Originally published March 4, 2014]
Dear Farmer – more specifically – Dad,
Growing up on a family farm, life wasn’t always easy or ‘fair’. I wasn’t able to run down the street to play with my friends after school or on many weekends like the rest of the kids in my class. You expected me to be at home helping in the garden, in the field mowing hay, or in the pasture checking cows. And you didn’t pay me for doing these things. If I wanted to buy something extra, then I had to earn the money for it. Summers of my youth were spent detasseling and baling hay. Once I hit sixteen, I worked part-time outside of the farm. You were always there for me and supplied me with the necessities, but if I wanted more, I was expected to earn it myself.
I wasn’t able to have all the coolest, up-to-date clothes that the other girls in my class sported. Mom took us shopping at Farm & Fleet and we got the Wranglers that were on sale. Boots were handed down from older siblings, it didn’t matter if they were boys or girls, we wore what fit.
While my town friends were sleeping in or watching Saturday morning cartoons, we were working cattle before the heat set in for the day. Sometimes even being woke up in the middle of the night to round up loose cows.
You know what though… I wouldn’t change it for anything. Life on the farm taught me many lessons that I have carried with me into adulthood.
- Determination and Commitment – When I got bucked off a horse, the world didn’t stop turning for me, I had to get right back on and ride. You taught me that when something isn’t going right, you don’t give up, you dig your heels in and finish the job.
- Roll with the Punches – Things don’t always go as expected on a farm… you’ve got a 30 acre field of hay cut and an unexpected thunderstorm rolls in, or a heifer is having problems calving at 2 in the morning, you’ve got to deal with the obstacles as they come at you, not everything can be done by the book…. Not so different than the hurdles I face in life now.
- Caring – Farmers care about the welfare of their sources of livelihood – the livestock and the land – like no other profession I’ve ever come across. You taught me this. How many corporate folk do you know that would go out in the driving rain and sleet to help a downed cow? I can’t name any. That’s part of a farmer’s job though. You care about the quality of life of your animals and that extends to caring about others as well. When a neighboring farmer is going through a hard time and needs help getting the crops in, we helped. You don’t stand by and watch others struggle, you do what you can to lift them up.
- Respect – You taught me to respect my elders, the land and the animals we raised. Without them, we wouldn’t have anything.
- Be Independent and Work Hard– You can’t rely on others for everything. You taught me that if I wanted something I had to work for it and do it myself. There wasn’t going to be any magical Fairy Godmother to wave her wand and pay for my first car or my college tuition. You taught me how to change a tire so I wouldn’t have to be stuck on the side of the road waiting for help.
This is just a short list of the things you taught me, but what I’m really trying to say is, thank you Dad, from the bottom of my heart. I appreciate all the lessons learned and quality time spent together. Without you and Mom showing me the ropes of farm life, I don’t think I would be the person I am today. And to all the other farm parents who have created such an amazing environment in which to raise their families, you are appreciated.