Lessons From The Farm
You could say I learned a few lessons from the farm, some self-taught, but some were as follows… “I swear you’re about as worthless as tits on a boar! ” My uncle’s words still ring in my ears… “Yes, sir, when God said ‘let there be brains’ you thought he said ‘trains’ and got the HELL out of the road!” Such encouraging words were usually accompanied by a rough arm around the neck and solid knuckles run hard through my hair. These and many other colorfully insulting lines were nearly terms of endearment and heard often while helping my family on the Klein Farm in Southwest Wisconsin.
Farming sucked… I was always screwing up, wasn’t fast enough, was in the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time… And at the time, I didn’t see what I was learning, I didn’t see the product of enduring failure after failure. It wasn’t until recent years, adulthood really, that I began to grasp the origin of my education… it was the farm, and the countless lessons I learned from my failures.
We live in the land of instant gratification… hungry? Call food for delivery. Want a movie? Order it on your tv. Want (cool gadget X)? Order it on Amazon. Lonely? Well… there are websites for that too… That’s not how it is with animals. You must invest your time. You must start with the goal in mind, sometimes it’s YEARS out with livestock (not rabbits though?). You may wait 3 years before you get a burger from your farm! (Cafe heifer bought, bred a year later, 10-month gestation, 18 months grow out).
I’ve often said that people these days think their T-bone steak is wrapped in cellophane, grown on a tree and picked by a legal immigrant… that’s just not the case. I truly believe that we are accountable for what we eat, how it is made, how it is raised, and all the things that happen to it in between. The only way to truly know what your food is going through before you eat it is to either raise it yourself and prepare yourself, or know the people that do it for you… Like the local farmers market or Farm Stand. On the Klein Farm in Wisconsin I witnessed and participated in the entire process; seed to feed, birth to butcher.
When work had to be done and my father and uncles were present, there was no laxidasical approach… If you’re not hustling, they’re going to know it. You can’t put off mending fences when the cattle are getting out. You can’t shirk off working on damaged rabbit cages, or you’ll lose your livestock. And most of all, you can’t pretend to be doing your job… For the results will testify against you!
You’ll get bruises, you’ll have aching muscles, you’ll be blistered and bleeding, your neck will go from pink to red to dark brown(unless you’re already blessed with such skin?). But after putting in the effort for a few months everything starts becoming easier, muscles build, hands callous, skin tightens… I’m telling you, it’s a hell of a lot better than the gym… but you don’t get those awesome mirrors for workout selfies?.
It’s your fault. There’s no way around it, there’s no reasons outside your control, you got to own it. I know the rains come suddenly, I know that animals get sick, I know that there are unexpected tribulations you must face… but make them your fault! Grab the reigns and say “yes, I should have done (X) and next time I’ll know.” Don’t cheat yourself out of improvement by finding a way to blame something outside of your control. Own it, then you can change it. Deny that, and you’ll never improve.
Not the monster depicted in a dark cloak brandishing a large scythe (though I like it’s appeal to agriculture), more the necessary process of the life cycle. We eat, therefore another being must meet Death. Grass, tomatoes, carrots, rabbits, chickens, pigs and cows all feel, all are alive. All of them feel pain. So when the time comes to harvest them, we must do so quickly and humanely. Sometimes Death finds our flock and crops before harvest… we must accept that the unexpected happens. We learn from our encounter with Death and change what we can to prevent the problem next time.
Not everyone is capable of owning 200 acres to 500 acres for farming the land. But we do live somewhere and should try our hand at farming on whatever level we can afford. The life lessons learned by raising our own food are no longer taught in schools, They should be learned at home! And before you tell me that you don’t have space for it, know that it doesn’t matter if you have an acre in a quarter, 5 acres or a small patio, just a dedicated 2-foot by 3-foot space is enough to get started and learn some valuable life lessons from the farm.