I was THAT person growing up. The one with no understanding of agriculture or farming. My meat came from the grocery store and if social media was how it is now, I would’ve believed all the misinformation that is shared every day. I don’t call it ignorant, just uneducated. During harvest I passed the combine and the tractors with no understanding of what their purpose was. Driving past barns or pastures, I didn’t comprehend what the animals were for. I think this is why I genuinely love to share what I get to do for a living. I have a sincere appreciation for the lifestyle of farming and all the work behind the operations.
I had started on a pig farm with ZERO experience. I mean zero; I had never shown an animal at the fair, never had a pig in my backyard, never even experienced or heard of the smells that came with the job! When I had the opportunity to go interview for a potential job at a barn, it was for the opportunity to work with animals. I had no understanding of how it was related to Ag or food production. I only could think of how much fun it would be to work with pigs. Oh, and little did I know I had so much to learn.
The amount of physical labor and work it took to do daily chores and animal care was something I had never realized even existed. It impressed me with how much care all the farmers had for the animals. Animal welfare was always number one, and the work wasn’t done until the work was complete. Meaning, it didn’t matter what hour of the day it was; you stayed until everything was concluded.
I’ll admit I had to prove my work ethic to my co-workers. They doubted me and I knew they did. I chose to stick it out, though at times it was difficult. I showed up and was showered in by the early morning hours. I power washed and then had to re-power wash because it wasn’t clean enough. It would take me an hour longer to get my jobs done than the people that had more experience. I was there to prove to them I could handle it and little by little I beat my time and my quality of work improved. As that would happen, I would earn the respect of the surrounding workers. They soon became my friends, and then they turned into more of a family.
When my friends became family, it showed me the type of people these other farmers were. Hard working, genuine, compassionate, considerate, determined individuals. As I grew up with my immediate family not being the ideal household, I found a sense of belonging with the people I was interacting with. They would literally give me the shirt off their back. It was a new form of respect.
As I progressed in my career in agriculture, I only had more and more opportunities to meet new farmers. Amazing women and men accepting me and working beside of me. There isn’t one word strong enough to explain the personality of these farmers. When you have experience outside of this lifestyle, it’s a breath of fresh air to get to know these people. They are a huge reason of why I continue in this lifestyle. If it wasn’t for getting involved in agriculture and pushing forward to earn respect, I honestly don’t know where I would be today. One decision can change your entire life.
National Farmer’s Day is a day I reflect on the work I have done for food production farming and what it takes to bring food to your table. Even more importantly, I reflect on the relationships I have made and the farmers that I’ll never forget for the impact they have made in my life.
I’m forever thankful for life I am living and the farmers that make a difference.