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I have been farming somewhat all of my life.
I grew up on a beef cattle farm but moved away for a few years. After working in the environmental conservation field where I traveled for 300+ days a year, I began to realize my aging grandparents wouldn’t be around forever. When I moved home in 2013, I began spending lots of time with my grandfather where I’ve been fortunate enough to live and learn through the eyes of a lifelong farmer.
My grandfather passed away on March 24th, 2019. At his eulogy, here is what I said: “As the years went by and I learned more, I soon began to realize the beauty of farming. The time we spent together, the solutions we formulated to solve problems, and the correlation of hard times on the land could also be universally applied to struggling areas of your life. The more love you give it, the more love it gives back. If you neglect it, the more neglect you may receive. I learned that overgrazed pastures gave sunlight to bare soils – providing the conditions for weeds and non-desirable plants to sprout and compete against your grasses. If given the love and care the land desires, the more the land produces and gives back to you.”
Everyday is a new lesson. In farming, you have about 1 in 40 chances to get it right. Every season counts and provides new challenges as you develop and grow – both on the farm and off the farm. A moment that sticks out to me is listening to the local AM bluegrass radio station while painting a barn with my grandad. He asked if I had my cellphone and if so, to call in (we knew the number by heart) and see if they would play “Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy.” They said whyyyy sure. He danced his flat-footin’ dance to every beat of that song. It didn’t matter where he was – he could be walking mid-stride into the oval office…if he were to hear a banjo ringin’ somewhere, he was dancing. I joined him.
In the conventional setup, the most challenging part of raising livestock is being at the mercy of the market swings. Raising livestock isn’t that difficult, though. It’s all perspective. Just treat them like they should be treated and they’ll love you for it.