As an “outsider” joining farm life, I’ve been met with challenges of 12-hour planting marathons in Memorial Day heat and the tasks of grasping the lingo of an unfamiliar field (Do you see what I did there? an unfamiliar FIELD? I’ll wait..it took me a minute to see it too).
Adapting to the farm life has been challenging, rewarding, exhausting, exhilarating, and, of course, delicious.
The farm life and farming community has taught me what it’s like to be truly tired (and sunburnt) and how truly rewarding this life can be. And most importantly, it’s opened my eyes to the most pure, generous sense of community you can imagine.
The First Look
The first real insight I had to the farming community was shortly after Ricky and I got engaged. We had been starting to put together wedding details and I was feeling extremely overwhelmed by the size of our guest list. Where you could divide a typical wedding guest list right into two [his family and her family], ours was split right into three: his family, my family, and THE FARMING COMMUNITY.
Are all these people really necessary?! I wanted to scream. How well do you really know ALL of these other farmers? I wanted to ask [and I’m certain I did].
Having been together for several years before we got engaged, I was aware that they were all somewhat connected, but I thought moreso on a level of “kind neighbor” rather than “share one of the most intimate days of your life” kind of level. From how I saw it, it would have been like inviting everyone in the office just because you make casual conversation with them, when there are only an handful that you can stomach to each lunch with on a routine basis. I was convinced.
Then a member of the farming community passed away. Before services were over, the farmers in the area organized the plan to plow his fields and plant his crops. I was astounded by what these folks would do – bring their own equipment and use their own time during a very busy season for themselves, perhaps putting their own work behind – just for a “kind neighbor.”
Putting the “Friendly” in ‘Friendly Competition’
Competition doesn’t exist in the farming world the same way that it does in other arenas. When I talk about patronizing another farm market for asparagus or rhubarb – items we do not grow [yet – hopefully my little rhubarb plants will give us a harvest next year!] – or items we may not have planted as early as other farms, like beets, it always seems to baffle others. The look they give shows a flash of surprise at catching me in some kind of ludicrous act, followed by a quick attempt to regain control of their eyebrows and dangling jaw.
The extent of “competition” in the farming community is more like a mild sibling rivalry. You delight yourself with bragging rights you’ve earned if you’re the first one with your field crops in the ground and grit your teeth a little when you’ve heard the neighbor has gotten his harvest in before you have (just because you wanted to finish first!). But you celebrate together in the years of plenty. You lean on each other in times of need, whether it’s a fire, equipment failure or complications with a crop. Neighbors sell each other product to sell and friends assist with specialty equipment because you’re all working towards the same goals.
The camaraderie amongst farmers, the shared leap of faith, the common goals and collective experience … it makes these “kind neighbors” more than neighbors. It makes them closer than friends.
It makes the farming community family.