April in Glenwood: The farmer’s life for me
One of the perks of writing for a living is the inspirational people I meet in interviewing sources. Everyone has a story. Even though sometimes people don’t believe they do.
And they always do.
There’s a story behind how we came into this world. The first concert we ever attended. Or the people who influenced us in high school. There’s even a story behind what we eat, or don’t eat, for breakfast every morning. Sounds mundane, I know. But there’s an important reason why I try to eat Raisin Bran every morning. That has everything to do with the new baby in my life.
Which is a fun story to tell when people have the interest .
In the last year, I’ve been writing for a Midwest farming publication that focuses on farm stories, services and technology, farm-to-table food and recipes, and agritourism. Each and every family farm I’ve had the chance to write about has left me with a sense of admiration for the strong work ethic and spiritualism that goes into working the land. I sometimes feel a tinge of envy because I don’t have the drive and ambition to be so self-sufficient as to grow a garden filled with fruits and vegetables, raise chickens for farm-fresh eggs, or milk my own goats or cows for organic, hormone-free dairy.
I grew a tomato plant last summer, so that was something.
A common denominator in the farming stories I’ve written is that enduring work ethic — sun up to sun down work is all part of the gig. There’s not a lot of sleeping in or blowing off work when there are animals to be fed, fields to be tended to and produce to be harvested. The balance of working the land, caring for animals and attending weekly farmer’s markets is real challenge to the small American farm.
There’s as much work to do behind the scenes as there is with the general public.
Another similar theme in the stories is a love for family — often the bigger the better — with all the members, from kids to grandparents, taking part in the farm’s responsibilities.
From building barns and chicken coops from the ground up to milking cows at three in the morning, there’s always a job to be done somewhere on the farm. I can’t imagine there’s much time to complain about that, either.
A farm family is a team dynamic built on love and faith that’s almost a lost art in today’s age of busyness and hand-held electronics. I usually hear it’s the peace and quiet of living on the farm, and watching the baby animals being born, that most farmers love about the lifestyle.
I’m sure they would call it a way of life as opposed to a lifestyle.
Whenever I visit a farm, the romantic in me comes out and I imagine myself meandering through a field of sunflowers in a gingham sundress or walking the land as baby lambs and chicks follow behind me. Of course I know I’d really be up to my shins in mud and manure trying to help the animals indoors during a bad storm. Or feeling devastated when an unexpected freeze killed most of my pumpkins I planned to harvest and sell that fall. I would also probably need to become a morning person, which hasn’t always been my thing.
Motherhood is changing all that for me anyway.
What I have also loved to discover in these assignments is that those choosing to own farms in this fast-paced day and age do it out of a respect for nature, animals and their fellow mankind. The farmers I have spoken to want to put meals on the table that come from a less industrialized place. Food that’s more organic to the way nature intended its production. All of my sources have been adamant that they use less pesticides and herbicides in the fields so the free-range animals consume less chemicals. They are intent on avoiding the hormones and genetically modified processes that have plagued much of the commercially produced food we consume as a society. Most of the farmers live by that less-is-more concept that we’ve moved away from in the name of convenience and low pricing.
I hope we go back to a much simpler time.
From what I’ve noticed in the farm-to-table and slow food movement, that way of life may be making a comeback. On the Western Slope, there’s inspiration in the valley from the organic farming at Sustainable Settings in Carbondale, and from friends I know in Glenwood Springs who raise their own chickens in their backyard. People are taking control of the food they eat by growing and producing their own. I for one would like to follow suit this summer with at least growing some tomato, pepper, lettuce and zucchini plants in my backyard. I’m also planning to buy more fresh eggs from local producers. It’s not exactly a farm life for me, but at least I’ll know the story behind my food. Because like people, all food has one.
April E. Clark would love to have a goat or two. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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