I’ve had many conversations in my thirty years on this earth with friends, family, and new acquaintances about what it means to grow up on a farm. In some of these conversations, it’s shared memories that connect us [You got in trouble for building forts with small square bales, too!] and, to be honest, most make me feel like I grew up in outer space [Did you drink milk right from the cow? Ew!].
No matter which camp you fall into – farm kid or not – there are lessons to be learned from a life lived on a farm. Here’s a small peek into what it’s meant to me.
You can embrace the roller coaster | If there’s one thing that growing up on a farm taught me, its that there are highs and lows in life and to survive you have to face the lows head on and recognize that they won’t last forever. You also need to cherish the highs because they can be fleeting.
Not sure what I mean by highs and lows? Here’s a few examples – High: Earning that showmanship trophy with your best bovine Stella, who you spent every day since school got out working with hours on end. Low: Selling your favorite cow Rose and seeing her loaded into the trailer. High: Riding in the combine with your grandpa and getting to eat candy before dinner. Low: Seeing your dad break down in tears because he had no choice but to sell the farm. High: Building forts in the shed with bales. Low: Getting in trouble for said fort.
Each turn of the roller coaster added to my foundation of perseverance, faith and grit.
Work ethic is ingrained in your DNA | When you hear people talk about farm work that lasts from sun up until sun down, it’s no exaggeration. On the farm, there’s never a shortage of work to be done and if you wait to get done tomorrow what you could have done today, well, you’re already behind. Growing up I had a buddy seat view of the work that went into our farm – hours in the combine, riding along on the tractor to spread manure on the field, feeding calves twice a day. When you’re self-employed, there’s no sick day or relief worker. It’s all you to get done what needs to get done before the rooster crows in the morning.
Even now there are times in my career where I can’t help but want to keep working. Early in my career, I would have been considered a “workaholic”. But really, it’s just the farm kid in me wanting to work and get done what can keep moving. I’ve worked to tame my workaholic ways since having our daughter, but that doesn’t mean the inner voice reminding me I could keep going has been quieted. If there is work to be done, it gets done…it just might be after 7 PM when the kid is in bed.
Independence is a gift | While my dad and grandpa were busy on the farm and mom and grandma were at work, it left plenty of time for my brother and I to explore [could also be read “get into trouble”]. Many times this meant hiking through the pasture or going sledding in the gully. Looking back now, as a mother, I think, “Wow. We never had any supervision.” In today’s world it’s unheard of to let kids go off on their own to wander and explore. I’m thankful for the adventures and independence, especially in today’s world where ‘helicopter’ is more often a term used to describe parenting than aviation travel.
Being on your own meant you learned how to care for yourself. Cooking, cleaning, getting homework done and even doing laundry were all tasks I pitched in with at a young age. And boy am I grateful I learned those life skills – especially when some kids I met in college didn’t even know how to sort their clothes or run a microwave.
Appreciation for what you have | Growing up on a farm leaves little room for frivolous spending. When I was young, it was just the necessities to be a functioning human in our family because frankly, we couldn’t afford much else. I remember eating Spaghetti-os and cottage cheese in what we called “poor man’s lasagna” [a secret family recipe – haha!] or thinking a tapioca pudding cup was a luxury dessert. Life was simple and I think that in this day-in-age we could use more simple and less keeping up with the Jones’ or Kardashians…or whatever. Focus on your family, your faith, your health and being a contributing citizen for the betterment of society. The material things are just that…material.
I will be forever thankful for my farm roots, running deep as the Pectonica River that winds around the land I grew up on. I can’t imagine a better life for our kids to grow up in. It’s not always easy, it will test your limits of faith, your bank account (oy vey!) and patience – but it’s worth it.