A Farmer's Sacrifice

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

When I was a young man, my father and I took our old farm truck to visit one of our relatives. He was an older man who had farmed his whole life, and my father liked to stop in from time to time to check up on him. This man always did most of the talking, and I loved to listen to his stories.

On one visit, he told of being a young boy when his father, his brother and he were hoeing corn in a field next to the dirt road where he lived. It was a hot Saturday afternoon in the 1930s, and like most farming of those days, much of the work in the fields was done by hand.

While they were working, neighbors began to pass by on their way to the local one-room schoolhouse for a community picnic.

He and his family were planning to attend, but his father seemed to be in no hurry to leave their work for something less important than the task at hand. The two boys, however, were eager to quit for the day and join their friends for the activities and good food. After listening to his sons complain, the father calmly said, "Boys, those folks may beat us to the picnic, but they won't beat us out of bed of a morning."

I laughed, as his father's words reminded me of my own father who always prioritizes tending to cattle and improving the condition of the farm before any recreational activity.

This is the mantra of farmers. Our responsibilities are centered on making sure work is taken care of on the farm before anything else. Livestock require adequate feed and clean water. Cows that are calving need to be checked. Fences must be maintained and weeds and pests in the fields must be reduced as much as possible.

I am six-foot-five-inches tall. In the ninth grade, my high school basketball coach was persistent in trying to recruit me. I attended a very small school, so a boy of my stature was a coveted prize for the basketball team, though my skills were more developed for farm work than basketball.

When I finally had my parents' blessing to join the team, my father explained he would not be able to attend many of my games because duties on the farm came first. So at my games, many times the seat next to my mother was empty. I appreciated and respected his sacrifice because I knew he wanted to be there.

This is the sacrifice many farmers make in order to feed a growing nation. The fall harvest requires long hours to get crops in before frost and snow. Dairy cows must be milked twice a day regardless of the season, children's school activities or even a farmer's desire for a day off.

Since I've returned to our family farm and have a son involved in school activities, I now understand how my father felt. My sweet wife has been understanding on occasions when we would postpone our anniversary dinner date because hay needed to be baled and put away in the barn before the rain.

I'm not complaining; I chose this life. I am grateful for my fellow farmers and their spouses and children who, without complaint, continue to sacrifice every day on behalf of all Americans who depend on them to provide food, clothing and fuel.

Glen Cope is a fourth generation beef producer in southwest Missouri.

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