I was sitting in church when the preacher asked, “do we have any farmers here?” My hand shot up part way, then went down, then questionably slid back to half-mast. I didn’t know how to answer the question. It shouldn’t be a hard one. Either you’re a farmer or you are not, and yet it was extremely hard to answer.You see, I had lived on what I would call a small farm in rural North Carolina where we raised sheep, goats, chickens, donkeys, and pigs to show for 4-H. I lived there, doing daily farm chores, for the past 15 years. Then I got married and moved to Lincoln, Nebraska where I now live in an apartment with a cat. I had never contemplated the fact that I may no longer be a farmer because I didn’t live on a farm. That Sunday, though, it was painfully obvious that I was suddenly in an identity crisis.
I didn’t want to not be seen as a farmer, though. My heart was there…on the farm. Sure I didn’t live there or help with daily chores, but I still kept in the loop and helped make decisions. I still flew back home for livestock shows. Did my new address steal me of the title of farmer?
What makes a farmer, anyway?
Is it the clothes they wear? To be sure not. I’ve seen farmers run to the farm in their Sunday best (let me just say from personal experience, running through a pasture in heels isn’t easy). Is it the amount of land they have or the scale of their business? I recall how once, someone told me I couldn’t possibly be a farmer because I had a mere 10 acres compared to their thousands, and I didn’t know what it was like to farm full-time. Odd. I definitely felt like a full-time farmer working overtime when checking on lambs at 2 am or spending Saturdays helping to mend fences. To be honest, there really isn’t such a thing as a part-time farmer. It may not be your main income, but it is certainly a 24/7 job despite the scale of the farm.
So then, if it isn’t the clothes, or scale or success of the farm that makes a farmer, what is it? Do I still have to live ON the farm to be a farmer? I don’t know.
What I do know, is I have a heart of a farmer. I know that the qualities that make me, me, while greatly influenced by my parents (thanks mom and dad!), are just as profoundly influenced by the farm life. Those values and lessons I learned in the barn…those have impacted me so much.
Am I a farmer? Technically, no. Technically I’m a communication consultant for agriculture companies who teaches communication part-time as a college professor. Not everyone gets to be a farmer in life. You know, I’m okay with that. Actually, I’m more than okay with that. I love what I do. I love creating content, taking pictures and writing to help tell the stories of farmers who generally don’t like telling their life stories on the internet for everyone to see. I love teaching. I also love my family farm. I found my place. I connected my creative heart and rural roots into something that is me. I have learned that I don’t have to be a farmer to have a farmer’s heart.You better believe, though, that apartment living isn’t forever. This farmer’s heart will get back on a farm someday 😉
All roads lead back to the farm.