I want to be a farmer.
And mother earth’s partner.
That so, why?
To be me
To work the land,
with an eager hand.
That so, why?
Because I know I can,
I’m the man.
And if I don’t, who will?
It don’t matter, Bill.
*My heart aches when I see injustice targeted on an interest group already legislatively overwhelmed. One such group is the hard working, over regulated farmers of our country. It is not an easy life and not suitable for the weak of heart or body.
But if we as concerned citizens don’t show our support for their cause, small farmers and their way of life will disappear and with it a beautiful and time tested slice of Americana.
I always enjoy going to a grange event for something different to do and support. If you really want to know your local farmers and their families and get some boot stomping entertainment in the wake, try it. The FFA is another great way to support our future farmers and hey, there’s always visiting and having fun at the county and state fairs.
“The Apple Did Not Fall Far From the Tree”
I ask myself, would I be a farmer and do what they do? Absolutely not. My grandfather was a dirt farmer in Oklahoma all his life and died in abject poverty. In 1940, at the age of 26 my father, Lewis, rode the rails to California; begging God all the way, to help him find any work but farming.
Lewis’s prayers were answered when my Grandfather Smith, in California, hired him to dig ditches, then later on encouraged him to become a contractor. A few years later, by happenstance, Lewis fell in love with Gloria and bingo, wedding bells and me. Another 11 years later with five children and one on the way, Lewis forgot his vow. He decided to try farming again (it must be a DNA thing) because his precious babies and wife needed open space, clean air and fresh food. A Utopian plan, but do able.
Mom had grave reservations about uprooting us from our beautiful home and comforts of the city. But Lewis knew he could do it, felt it in every fiber of his soul. He sold his business and bought a 160 acre farm in Timnath, Colorado. There were dairy cows, sugar beet fields, lambs, chickens, a horse and lots of cats. There was a huge farm house and two smaller houses for the help. There was a beautiful little lake that was perfect for ice skating and snow for Christmas. Shangri-la, right? Wrong.
First Devastating Blow: the milk from our cows was downgraded to milk by- products instead of consumer milk at a huge cut in profit. This shook Lewis to the core and he never recovered. Second Blow: my brothers did not give dad the help he thought they would (remember as a boy, Lewis worked his buns off to survive and assumed his sons were “Teflon” strong like he was). Third Blow: the sugar beets had to be harvested by another farmer who took a huge cut of the profits, because when the milk was devalued, dad flew back to California to work in order to make ends meet. Fourth Blow: nobody liked dad’s applesauce (he made gallons from our apple trees) and we all dreaded going to the dinner table. Fifth blow: dad had to start selling off the cows. Sixth blow: dad had to sell the farm. Seventh and Fatal Blow: Lewis had to admit to making the worst mistake of his life. Our family never got back the good old days we had before the farm, but my determined parents always kept us happy, healthy and educated with an abundance of love, not only for us but for each other.
Moral of the Story
Gift: We Were Happy Curse: Lewis Was Not a Farmer
I have the utmost respect for any man or woman who succeeds in farming. To be a farmer takes a hardy soul, one with a committed focus on result and love for mother earth in order to produce food for others and his family. Because: if it’s not drought; its snow, tornadoes or fire. If it’s not weeds; it’s pestilence. If it isn’t regulatory assaults, a down grading of a product or a changing commodity market; it’s aches from overworked bones and tired muscles. Yet despite all of this, the Teflon Farmers trudge on: gift or curse– “It don’t matter”.
Gift: The Grain Combine Curse: The Fire
I spent 4 months on and off exploring Indiana’s corn and soybean fields while my husband was working here on assignment. During my free time I was able to watch the harvesting marvels of the giant soybean and corn combines shake the earth. Their majesty was breathtaking and processing ability incomprehensible. 68 million acres of corn are harvested each year, alone.
But, because of the intense heat generated from its powerful engines, grain combine fires are problematic and frequent. They generally start near its engine where dust and dry crop debris accumulate. Grain combine fires are responsible for millions of dollars of loss to the farmer each year and very little can be done about it.
Quick Combine Facts
1. Combine harvesters are the most economically important labor saving farm inventions ever made, enabling small farmers to be involved in large agriculture production. A new combine is upwards of $400,000 to buy. A hefty purchase for a small farmer. Many chose to pay a combine service to harvest their crops instead.
2. The combine is a machine that harvests grain crops. It’s name is the combination of three different operations in harvesting: reaping, threshing and winnowing into a single process.
3. Despite leap frog advances mechanically and especially with computerized controls, the basic operation of combined harvesters has remained unchanged since the first combined reaper was invented in 1834 by Hiram Moore.
Combines Harvesting Corn
1. Maize (Feed Corn) is the most widely grown plant in the US and Canada.
2. 332 million metric tons of corn are grown annually.
3. Approximately 40% or 130 million tons is used for corn ethanol.
4. The United States, since 2005, is the world’s largest producer of ethanol.
5. Soybeans are a global commodity and is the second most valuable US agricultural export behind corn.
6. Toasted, defatted soy meal (50% protein) makes possible, the impossible: the raising of farm animals on an industrial scale, unparalleled in the history of mankind. 98% of soybean production in the US is used for livestock feed.
7. FDA approval of the soybean as an official cholesterol-lowering food along with other heart and health benefits, makes it one of nature’s most enduring and beneficial foods.
8. Indiana farmers set a record high for corn production in 2013 due to a wet spring that provided the moisture and timely rains needed for an extraordinarily high yield: statewide over 1 billion bushels were harvested. (I was here during this period and rain it certainly did!) Indiana soybean production, while not a record high in 2013, did remarkably well. However, record highs equate to lower corn and soybean prices thus lower farmer profits.
Gift: Record High Production Curse: Lower Farmer Profits
What a crazy, unpredictable ride farming is. But, to the Teflon boys, it’s worth the ticket price.
The six children of Lewis and Gloria thrive to this day. We recently got together in Colorado at Allenspark lodge near Estes Park, in celebration of our awesome family; especially the recollections of dad and the brief farm life we were so lucky to be a part of.
- Google combine image
- You Tube fantastic videos