Putting the Family Back in the Family Farm

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.

Family, Farming & Gardening, Motherhood, Uncategorized , ,

3 responses to Putting the Family Back in the Family Farm

  1. Sarah P

    That was nostalgic and beautiful. I longed for the simple life right there with you. You are such a gifted writer. I love reading your blog. Thanks Lauren and bless your urban-farming family. 🙂

  2. Kelsey

    Once again your words have captured our childhood memories so perfectly and brought them all rushing back. Til this day I still attribute my love of getting my hands dirty to my farm girl past.

  3. Aunt Susie

    I remember wanting to be able to go swimming but my boyfriend had to do hay. I remember my mom yelling at me because I wanted to read a book instead of washing the dishes for 10 people.The boys got to drive the tractors and I had to stay in the house. one year mom put the television into the cupboard because we were hypnotized by the television, fortunately we never had computer games. I learned a lot about working very hard and the love that our parents had for us. Dad and mom very seldom grumbled about having to work in the garden, cook and can food for us. We plucked chickens, butchered meat, shelled peas and beans ,cut corn off of the cob , picked raspberries, picked apples made cider. We climbed trees, built cabins from our pine trees and played with our cousins had parties. I wore hand me down clothes ,made by my cousin and her mom, better than any of the clothes bought from the store today. My mom sewed me lovely clothes. I guess I was a fashionista because rarely did anyone have clothes like mine. I have tried very hard in my adult life to help my mom and dad for all of the love and hard work they endured to raise us kids. I am thankful for the faith and good examples they set before us kids. I remember my boyfriend being embarrassed because he was driving an old truck with an old bathtub in the back. I said I love you and I don’t care what other people think of this old truck. what my parents gave us is worth more than all of the money in the world.

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