We have started the hay season and time is limited for posting to my blog. However, an experience with my son last week meant the world to me and while sitting on a plane to Washington DC today, I took the time to share it. Yes, it is lengthy, but perhaps you too will find a value in my experience to carry into your own life.
Epiphanies come when you least expect them. Lately, my six-year-old son has provided me a plethora.
Last week I had a series of “challenging” days with my son, culminating with an ever so important “life moment.”
Ever since Kyle started going out with me on the ranch to “help,” I have made a concerted effort to teach him responsibility, a strong work ethic, to be creative and do things independently…traits I believe will serve him advantageously in the future. However, sometimes this newly discovered ‘independence’ has created some interesting situations. Read more…
I picked up my son today from my mom and dad’s.
We buckled up, I started the truck, backed up, turned around and pulled on to the road. There was a bit of conversation about his hike on the hill with grandma, their new puppy and a request to stop by the pond to see the turtles. We stopped, counted the turtles, seven, and then continued on our way…in silence…for about three minutes and fifteen seconds…when the “big question” was asked….
Son: “Daddy, how long will you be alive?”
Me: “I don’t know son…that’s up to the good Lord above to decide.”
[approximately 30 seconds of silence]
Son: “Daddy [beginning to cry] …. I don’t want you to die…. I want you to live forever….”
Me “Kyle, I love you, and hearing you say that means the world to me, but we can’t live forever. It’s not in our control. It’s all up to our Creator.
Son: “I’m going to pray that He lets you live until I die daddy.”
The conversation continued for the rest of the drive home, down the lane, out in the field and for a bit longer….
This was the first real “serious” conversation the two of us have had….and probably not the last.
It was a moment that I will treasure forever.
It was a moment that caused me to pause and contemplate.
I leave you to contemplate.
Whenever I pass a freshly plowed field it gives me the same thrill as an unopened book–full of potential, surprise, and pleasure. And just like that book beckons me to peek beneath its cover, the sight of that rich, dark earth ready for planting beckons me to curl my feet into the freshly tilled layers and feel its coolness between my toes.
My connection to farming is a gift I cherish from my childhood spent on a dairy surrounded by Holstein dairy cows, an assortment of dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional jack-rabbit my father found orphaned while cutting alfalfa. For me, there was no more peaceful place on the planet than lying on a bale of freshly bound hay, inhaling the heady aroma of alfalfa, while staring up at a sky so blue it made my eyes squint.
One of my favorite places in the dead of summer was the peach orchard. I remember that first peach of the season. How my fingers sunk into the soft flesh when I plucked it from the branch. With the first bite, peach juice made race tracks down my arm. Nothing ever tasted as good. Like a piece of heaven to my taste buds.
We didn’t have much, but neither did anyone else we knew. I wore hand-me-downs. We canned most of our fruits and vegetables. Fresh, clean air and the farm provided a plentiful playground. I scampered through fields and hay barns. I cuddled newborn kittens with their eyes sealed shut. I roamed sweltering orchards while my mother picked peaches.
At our house, milk didn’t just materialize from the store. It came from the milk tank after the cows were herded to the milking parlor, washed, milked and turned back to the pasture. Milk came from an abundance of hard work before it arrived at our table.
Perhaps I view my childhood through rose-colored glasses. And certainly kids raised in urban areas had experiences I didn’t, but the difference is, back then the majority of kids who didn’t live on farms had family or friends who did, and they had the opportunity to visit them. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, makes this same comment in his book. He said that baby boomers may be the last generation of Americans to share an intimate and familial attachment to the land and water.
My parents sold the dairy when I was ten, but farming stayed with me. My husband and I bought land, planted an orchard from the ground up and currently grow table olives. We raised our children on a farm, and I’ve worked as a freelance photojournalist specializing in agriculture for the past 15 years.
Every day I become more aware of the limited exposure children have to farming. Statistics show the U.S. farm population is dwindling, and 40 percent of the farmers in this country are 55 or older. I see this every day when I’m interviewing farmers, and I wonder who will raise our food when they’re gone? What happens if today’s youth is not inspired to farm?
Ultimately, the answer begins and ends with parents. Our children need to be inspired to farm. They need hands-on time with agriculture. They need to see, touch, taste, smell and hear farming in all its noisy, dirty, sweaty, smelly glory. Along with the hundreds of thousands of college graduates going into medicine, law and business, we need equal numbers of agriculture graduates ready, willing and eager to farm.
I believe the best way to achieve this is by providing children, at a young age, with frequent exposure to farming. Children need to know how food is produced, and they need to read books with agriculture themes. Last Child in the Woods lists 100 actions parents can take to get children into nature. One of his suggestions is to take them to U-Pick farms or join a local co-op where the kids are involved from planting to harvesting. Every child should know the joy of whiling away a warm summer afternoon in a barn, an owl snoozing in the rafters and a litter of newborn kittens sandwiched between bales of hay.
Kathy Coatney has worked as a freelance photojournalist for 15 years, starting in parenting magazines, then fly fishing and finally specializing in agriculture. Her latest project is the Farmer Guy/Gal series of children’s picture books with an agriculture theme.
View her photos at: www.agstockusa.com.
Like her at: www.facebook.com/kathycoatney
Follow her on twitter @KathyCoatney.com
Visit her website at: www.kathycoatney.com
Over the weekend we had our family birthday supper for our February birthdays. At the conclusion, I began to feed the four bummer lambs. Somehow a picture was taken and I had to post it. A number of people asked, “What is a ‘bummer’?”
A bummer lamb is one that is raised entirely or partially away from a mother. They come from a variety of situations. Read more…
Happy – characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy
Last week, while I was heading someplace, I was listening to John Stossel, on my XM, “What Really Makes People Happy.”
I spent the next few days thinking about this question. I thought about myself and what makes me happy? Read more…
We had to take a quick break after lunch and feed the imagination, before continuing with ranch work.
My son celebrated his 5th birthday two weekends ago and while there were many new and exciting gifts, the Star Wars Lego’s were one of his favorites.
Now, for those who remember back to their childhood, the Lego’s of today are nothing like we had; talk about special pieces, colors and accessories! Years ago, you had basic colors, basic sizes and they were all rectangles. Today, colors abound, multiple shades exist and the pieces come in arcs, triangles, with hinges, figures and more. Despite the changes, Lego’s have maintained the same design for fastening and those of today continue to work with those of yesteryear.
While I spent several hours with him building and creating, I couldn’t help but think about the association between the transition of Lego’s over past 60+ years and how it relates to agriculture.
Lego’s motto is “Det bedste er ikke for godt,” or “Only the best is good enough.” Once again, a philosophy shared by those in American agriculture.
Every Lego piece is manufactured with tremendous precision by utilizing computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D modeling. Similarly, crops today are grown with precision, utilizing global positioning satellites (GPS) and 3D soil and hydrology modeling. Certainly, neither Lego, nor agriculture had this technology available 60 years ago, but both recognized the need to improve, become more efficient and be able to continue to offer a safe and high quality product.
Like Lego, agriculture has also changed over the past 60 years, yet remained true to its roots: the importance of family; ensuring the longevity of the soil and enhancing the environment for future generations, while providing safe, wholesome and nutritious food remain as cornerstones.
Lego currently offers more than 30 different themed products, with the ability for all to be used together. Like Lego, the diversity of agriculture provides a plethora of choices that the consumer has never seen before and also has the ability to work together to meet the needs of a growing population.
I wonder what the next step for both Lego and American agriculture is.
Will you ever look at a Lego the same way again?
“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy 6:7