The Family Business

My grandfather was a farmer. So was my father. It became the family business, in a way. I tried to fight it when I was younger. I wished so hard that my family owned a car dealership or a furniture store. Anything was better than what we were! My dad always looked ruddy and perpetually smelled like either sweat, dirt, animals, or some combination of the three. He embarrassed me when I was younger even though he was never anything but a hard worker and a good provider. I am not sure why but all I wanted was to be away from him and everything he represented. I studied other things in school and I even got a job where I had to dress in a suit every day. It didn’t make me happy, though. For all of my defiance, it turned out that I liked being outside.Despite my best efforts to convince myself otherwise,I missed working on our land, overseeing the progress of crops from planting through harvest time. There is a rhythm and a peace that can be found out in the fields. I have not been able to find that kind of satisfaction anywhere else.

I made the decision to get back into farming when my dad got sick. I took over the daily duties at the farm, and every night I would pay him a visit before turning in. He would sit in his bed, looking frail and tired. So unlike how I had always seen him. He had always been a giant to me—big, strong hands, a quick smile, and a sharp mind. I could not reconcile that image with the man before me. We would sit and talk about the crops and the livestock. We would go over what was working and what wasn’t, and what to do about the stuff that wasn’t. Things started to come back to me and I learned quickly as I went along. It was not long before I didn’t actually need his advice or input, but I always asked for it. I think it helped him to feel needed. I think it kept him feeling connected to the land that he loved and had spent his whole life working. Land that he suddenly could only see out of a window. He passed away about a year later.

There is an art to growing things, my dad used to say. It involves understanding of the soil, the water, and the seed. You have to know what the seed will need to grow and thrive. You need to understand what the soil needs to provide nourishment to the seed and so that the soil remains healthy long after the plants have been harvested. You have to be protective of the water—not to abuse or contaminate it; instead it must be treated like the valuable, finite resource that it is. Those lessons he taught me are what made me decide to start growing things organically. I wanted to put more effort into growing things in a sustainable way. I want to make sure that the land that we have stays fertile for a long time to come, and I think organic practices are the best way to achieve that goal.