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My farmer's heart

Agriculture.com Staff 02/14/2016 @ 2:07am

Outside, a storm lashed the farm as the farmer gave her talk. She explained that this was her first year running the family farm. A late frost in the spring had cut the chances for a bumper crop. Dry weather during the summer had meant she'd spent a fortune on irrigation water.

Now that the first day of harvest had arrived, not only did she have 150 journalists on her farm wandering around in her way, it was pouring rain and the harvesting equipment slithered back and forth in the mud. English wasn't her first language and she struggled a little bit, pausing in an attempt to say exactly what she was thinking. "Today," she said, "my farmer's heart is crying a little."

I wasn't home, standing in a corn and soybean farm in the middle of the Red River Valley. Instead I was standing in a field of current bushes and plum trees, on the shore of Lake Mjosa in Norway. Although the terrain, as well as the language, was very different, the feeling was very familiar. I admit I don't know much about growing currents and plums in Norway, but I know all about a farmer's heart.

I've got one. And I've earned it. As a descendent of a thousand years of peasants, I was born with an advantage, but I've paid a few dues, too. In 30 years of making a living as a farmer on the edge of the prairie, I completely lost two crops to drought, another couple to floods, and, just to top it off, suffered two spectacular hailstorms. I've sold hogs for nine cents a pound and corn for not much more.

Of course, in the midst of all that, I've walked to a tractor in the field in the midst of a glorious sunrise, eager to get back to work. I've walked home in the dark under a full moon, as Canadian geese sailed across its face. I've watched my son play with his toy tractors sitting alone in the middle of a half section of land (I was babysitting and really needed to get some wheat planted) and I’ve watched my daughters grow up with horses, goats and kitties.

I once let a 12-year-old, visiting from the suburbs, take my combine for a spin around the yard and later overheard him tell his uncle, "Today was the best day of my life."

I've sat at our kitchen table, early in the morning when the house was still and dark, staring at my work boots and wishing with all my heart that I didn't need to put them back on and go out to try again. I've stared at the same boots late at night, too sore and stiff to bend over to unfasten the laces.

I've visited a hog barn late at night, just to make sure everything in my charge was warm, dry and fed, and I've listened to the soft sound of comfortable animals settling down in the darkness. I've watched the birth of three children and thousands of animals, and I've helped bury far too many people who cannot be replaced.

I've shed blood to earn my farmer's heart -- real blood from so many cuts and scrapes that my hide is a patchwork of fading scars and the heart's blood that any man sheds who accepts the roles of husband, father and son.

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