Strong Connections from a Small Farm

farm3 By: Ryan C. Meyer

If life on a farm is anything, it is hands-on. A farmer has direct contact with the people, animals, dirt, structures and machinery that constitute his environment. His work is hard and honest and the bond between a farmer and his surroundings grows strong and healthy. In a time where our connections seem to be becoming more numerous and less personal, the farmer holds fast to an older, more intimate time.

Although family is important to most people, a farm, where each family member invests a great amount of time and effort, serves as a binding agent like no other. I am thankful to have grown up on a dairy farm; as my life progresses, the ways that it has shaped my character become more and more evident. I find beauty and admiration that others overlook, have a strong work ethic and am close with my family. At the end of the day, it is not material possessions that make me content but these intangible and irreplaceable values.

More than just people that share a home, my family does most things as a single entity. Whether it be eating, playing, or working, we are almost always together. We make the same sacrifices, have the same interests and will always be there for each other regardless of life’s twists and turns. The strength of bond that we share is made possible by working together on a common, ongoing and rewarding challenge: the farm. farm2

A farm requires great amounts of sacrifice and having a family that can help with its relentless weight is important. Nothing in nature happens when it is convenient for man. Because of this, a farmer must be ready at all times. An animal giving birth or weather taking a turn for the worse cannot be rescheduled. One must be ready 365 days a year, making “vacation” a word that is seldom used by a farmer. For instance, while it may be tricky for others to find a person willing to look after their pets for the duration of a trip, imagine the difficulty of finding someone to milk and watch a herd of cattle. It very rarely happens.

Almost every aspect of farm life is affected by weather. Few can deal with adversity and respect nature the way that a farmer does. Weather to the average person may set the day off on one foot or the other, but on a farm it means much more. Knowing when it is likely to rain, governs when a farmer can plant and harvest crops, make hay or fix fences. Fields can be devastated by frost, hail, drought or too much rain, making it necessary to find alternate sources of food or adjust the size of a herd. For all of the challenges weather poses, though, it can also bring great rewards. As a farmer rolls with the Mother Nature’s punches and seizes her opportunities, life springs from the earth and becomes something that can be appreciated, consumed, and used to start the cycle anew. Witnessing this growth of plants and animals and knowing that is made possible through your own efforts is an awesome feeling.

Knowledge of the processes involved in creating what you eat brings about a feeling of great appreciation. Food means a lot when you know where it came from and nothing compares to food that is harvested from your own garden or fields—passion and hard work are subtle flavors that go unnoticed without this awareness. Savoring the fruits of your labors reminds you that all of the long hours and back-breaking work are worthwhile.

A farmer’s life is not an easy one. It is an occupation that requires the abilities of a carpenter, electrician, plumber, and mechanic on top of its own unique skill set. My father built most of our barns and sheds himself, tying himself to the place with pride in its creation.

Despite its great difficulty, farming is very rewarding. It strengthens one’s connections to people, the environment, and one’s own accomplishments.  The devotion necessary to live the life of a farmer forges a relationship with the world and those within it that far surpasses the typical depth of that relationship. A farmer’s empathy extends to both his fellow man and the earth he tills. Fields that change from a patch of exposed earth to green rows of healthy stalks make his work worthwhile, and the men and women that count themselves among his friends are fortunate to do so.

Ryan is a recent graduate of Penn State (where he majored in English) and a long-time resident of Pennsylvania. After growing up on a farm, he harbors a love of the outdoors and experiences the grit and grandeur of the world firsthand.