Just don’t try to tell me farming is boring

Probably “disappointed” is a better word to use than “disgusted,” but only marginally so.

My only hope is that those in whom I am so disappointed are probably terribly young, and at an age when youth often flaunts its lack of wisdom as if it were a badge of honor.

I know I did that.

For irrelevant reasons, I went looking on-line for sights to see in the state of Indiana, with which I’m not at all familiar.

I wasn’t sure what I’d find but did not expect to find dozens, if not scores, of Hoosier expatriates warning me of the boredom and dreariness which awaits anyone who crosses the Wabash River.

What was the kids’ main complaint? Farms and farming. Too much of it in Indiana. Farming, they say, is boring.

How sad. How arrogant. How foolish.

Farming? Boring?

Farm families witness, and play a part in, the seasonal regeneration of life.

They must learn to nurture and care for animals of all types and temperaments. And, in so doing, nurture their own lives. Farmers must be excellent economists, though most would smile at that title. Sometimes they must figure out a way to pay for this year’s crop out of the losses incurred raising last year’s. And then there’s next year’s.

By nature a farmer must be a gambler, an oddsmaker and a meteorologist rolled into one. Should I plant Crop A or Crop B? It depends on whether I think it will rain 30 inches this year, or 20, or not at all. And I have to decide now, not in a month.

A farm family quickly learns the nature of hard work, right down to the youngest member. It comes with the territory. Fields don’t plow themselves, crops don’t harvest themselves, stalls don’t muck out themselves, cows don’t go to the store, buy feed then drive a pickup to their pasture and throw it out.

There are lazy athletes, lazy executives, lazy politicians, lazy professors, yes, lazy journalists. There are no lazy farmers.

Why? They don’t last long.

Who on earth that’s ever paid attention to a farm could possibly consider it boring?

Did they ever watch a newborn foal stand on its little toothpick legs and take those first tentative steps?

Did they ever see the clouds of grasshoppers in early September descend on a field of scorched corn and devour everything in sight? No horror movie could be more compelling, or heartbreaking if you were depending on that crop for this fall’s tractor payment.

Did they watch the sun set, all orange-red glory, over the field that must be plowed beginning when that same sun rises over the opposite horizon the next morning?

Did they ever stand in the middle of rows and rows of ears, heads, bolls or blooms and think— “this is mine; I raised this; lots of people I’ll never know are going to eat or wear this and it’s a very, good thing”—and then quickly go back to work because you don’t waste daylight with daydreams when you’re a farmer? Did they ever see the sheer joy in the eyes of a youngster when the judge at the county fair approaches him or her with a blue ribbon for that animal they’ve raised and fed and doctored—and to tell the truth, loved—for the past year?

Did they ever send that same child off to college, secure in the knowledge that he or she already has an education, one that’s grounded and rich in the life lessons that really matter?

No they haven’t experienced any of those things and that’s really not their fault because, while it makes kids and young adults mad when you tell them, it really is true that you’ve got to have a few years on you before you can understand some things all the way.

What they’ve done is drive through Indiana, see silos instead of skyscrapers, cows instead of coliseums, hard rocks instead of Hard Rock Cafes and think “how boring, which way to Chicago?”

The irony is, Chicago wouldn’t exist if not for farms and the people who make them work.

Chicago is where it is because that’s where the railroad met the waterways. Agricultural products, especially Texas beef, could be sent to 19th Century Chicago by rail then shipped out to anywhere in the world.

The agriculture community usually leads and everyone else follows. Farmers might be low key but they can be profound.

I recently read about a presentation on climate change in which several experts argued pro and con on how much manmade activity was causing weather to deviate from normal patterns.

When it was over a self-identified farmer chimed in, thusly:

“You know, I’ve been farming for 30 years, and only one of them was normal.”

He didn’t sound boring at all. I’ll bet he was from Indiana.

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2012-04-19 digital edition

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