To say my 4-year-old son is “farm crazy” is an understatement. He loves everything about the farm – and then some.
It’s not just our type of farming he is interested in. He wants to know in detail about dairying, making silage and running a combine, among other things. He loves his “baby tractors,” which have grown to be a huge collection of 1/64 scale tractors, combines, rakes, wagons and other farm machinery. If you use it on a farm, chances are he has it in 1/64 scale – or it is on his wish list! My boy is so farm focused he sees future barns in UPS delivery boxes and empty Kleenex boxes. Even a crumpled up piece of drip irrigation tape reminded him of a barn the other day. My husband and I joke that if he were given an inkblot test, it would go something like this: “I see a barn. That one looks like a barn, umm a barn? Looks like a barn to me.”
I suppose that is why it surprised me so much when he said to me at breakfast, “Momma, sometimes I wish we didn’t have a farm.” “Really,” I replied. “What would we do if we didn’t have a farm?” He quickly told me we would “cook, play and read books all day.” Perhaps the farm has taken a bit too much of my time lately and that prompted his inquiry. He quickly changed his tune however, when I explained without a farm you don’t need tractors!
Truth be told, the summer he turned 2 years old, the possibility of us not having a farm was quite the reality. At an informational town meeting, the Tennessee Valley Authority informed us that the very heart of our farmland was one of four proposed 500 kilovolt substation sites needed to help meet the electricity needs of the growing counties around us. The very question my son posed to me was all of a sudden our reality. Our world was turned on edge. How do we plan for the future? What would we do if we didn’t farm? That summer was full of internal and external struggles. We woke up every day and went to work on a piece of land that might not be ours in the coming months. Instead of waking up each day looking for ways to improve our little piece of earth, we went through the motions, wondering if what we were doing really mattered anymore.
That fall we learned that our farm was safe. The substation would be built on another piece of land, a farm, but not our farm. I remember going through the fall season seeing everything through much more thankful eyes. I marveled at our neighbor’s huge and handsome maple trees showing their colors quite proudly. I simply could not get enough of our fall born calves running and playing, then returning to their mothers for comfort and milk. Our family took walks through our woods, bringing home plenty of souvenirs like turkey feathers, gumball tree seedpods and acorns with or without their hats. Sometimes I found myself just being still and letting the cool autumn winds blow against my skin, thankful to God for the opportunity to just be.
One of the first things we did after learning our farm was indeed still ours was to reseed our pastures with red clover. In a way, the sowing of the clover was our recommitment to the land that yes, we were still here and yes, we promised to take care of it as long as we both shall live. We watched the ground for the first shoots of clover to see if the land would accept our renewed vows.
The clover grew, has been grazed numerous times and, despite a severe drought the very next summer, continues to grow today. To us it is a visual reminder that we are indeed still here on this farmland we love, making a difference day by day, improving the land, nurturing life, growing food for families and, yes, giving our son the chance to say that “sometimes” he wishes we didn’t have a farm, but, hopefully, protecting him from that statement ever becoming an unwanted reality.