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Not a farmer

Agriculture.com Staff 05/10/2006 @ 12:23pm

I drove down my driveway the other day and noticed how nice the wheat looked. Straight rows, good stand.

It's not my wheat, though.

Yeah, for the first time since 1976, I'm not farming. Furthermore, for the first time since 1880, someone other than an Olson is farming our land.

It's a little weird. I've been thinking seriously about making a change for about a year. Between being a county commissioner and the writing thing, last year was frenzied, hitting its peak on a lovely day in October when I should have been combining beans, but instead parked the combine and drove to Saint Paul to testify at the Capitol about the virtues of renewable energy out here on the prairie. That was probably the day I decided if I was going to retain any shred of stomach lining, I was going to have to make some life adjustments.

You know, when I was a little kid, my dad read to me a lot. Because he wasn't a big fan of kid's books, he read me stories that he wanted to read. I knew "The Ballad of the East and West" by Kipling long before I knew anything about Dr. Seuss. One of the lines that stuck with me all these years is from a story called "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat." It's about a man in India who walks away from all he's known and starts his life over. The line reads "... twenty years a student, twenty years a warrior, and twenty years the head of a household ..." and what it means is that every now and then, it makes sense to just make a turn and do something completely different.

I'm a believer in that. I've always liked trying things I've never done before, but you know what? For my entire adult life, when someone asked me what I did, I said, "I'm a farmer."

And now I'm not.

I gotta tell you, it's weird.

It's not that I'm ashamed to say, "I'm a writer."

Shoot, some of the time I'm not even ashamed to say, "I'm an elected official."

But, the truth is, a farmer is a person who raises food. His is the one indispensable profession in this world. Investment bankers, computer scientists, doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs, despite the value of their jobs, all need to eat. I've always thought it was kind of funny to look at an old guy in bib overalls and boots, or a young guy in a seed corn cap, torn blue jeans and ratty sneakers and think to myself, "Those guys do the most important job in the world." And I was one of them.

I still think I made the right decision. My body is beat up -- it hurts to get out of bed on a good day and a lot of them aren't good. I look down the road that agriculture is on and I'm not sure I have the energy to keep up. As a county commissioner, I see some things I want to get done that require my full attention. Being a writer has taken me to Iceland and China, and this summer to Norway, so I'm not complaining -- I know I lead a good life. We have some good young farmers renting the land and I know they'll do a good job. So, it all makes sense.

Still, last week I drove down my driveway, looked at my land, saw a fine crop of wheat coming up, and it wasn't mine.

And I wanted to cry.

Copyright 2006 Brent Olson
www.independentlyspeaking.com

I drove down my driveway the other day and noticed how nice the wheat looked. Straight rows, good stand.

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