You may not know this about me, but I’m a farm girl, born-and-raised. My dad is a farmer, and his dad was a farmer. However, I would say my four siblings and I have a love-hate relationship with farming. Growing up, we felt that we had an unreasonable amount of chores that conflicted with video games (my brothers) and reading books (me). Although, I’d have to say there was some innovation when it came to incorporating reading books while washing dishes or folding clothes, just ask my mom. We also blamed “the Farm” for not having the expensive clothes we wanted, or the cool cars other people owned. We got picked up from soccer or football practice in mud-splattered trucks, and I believe my first ride was a ’79 GMC truck with stacks on the back, true story. We forked tons of manure-laden straw, and stacked thousands of straw bales. Unknown fact: I’m experienced at artificially inseminating female pigs and vaccinating their babies. Summers at the Brownlee home were spent at 4-H meetings and fairs all the while avoiding the topic with our non-farm kid friends. We were embarrassed when our friends got asked to help us with our chores while they were staying at our house. Wow, we wasted a lot of time being resentful and mortified. In all our complaining and making “the Farm” the scapegoat for all our woes, I see now that we missed the true value of farm life.
A common goal, and quality time that I no longer enjoy with my family.
When I was a senior in high school, I dated another farm kid. Farming was in his blood and in his heart. Sometimes I would help with his afternoon chores, milking the cows or feeding the sheep, and we did all the farm chores for my dad while he was out of town. One day my little brother Jay observed my boyfriend’s sister-in-law riding on the tractor with her husband and envied that he could find himself a girlfriend who would do the same. He watched us ride around together, talking, mowing, hefting feed buckets, shearing sheep and forking straw. Suddenly the chores weren’t evil time-stealers but exactly where we wanted to be, and we enjoyed it – because we were together.
Don’t get me wrong, family farming is often a hard, non-lucrative business, not to mention unglamorous. I don’t mean to sound idealistic. I’m simply mournful that what could have bound us together, hands and heart, drove us apart because we missed the opportunity to appreciate our relationships.
At age 30, I’m a city mom who grows a backyard garden, aspires to have more land, and a few chickens and other animals. As I reflect on my childhood and the things I value now and appreciated then: growing our own food, sharing meals and chores together, working hard and feeling strong, being outside in the fresh air…some things don’t change. Maybe it’s just in my blood.
I’d like to dedicate this post to the farm families that made me see the value of farming together: the Burgers and the Gadsbys. And to my grandparents, who let us “help” feed the chickens and the sheep, and fed us from the labor of their hands. And my mom, who taught me how to garden and snap green beans. And to my dad, who always dreamed that we would love farming as much as he does.