I am a true foodie and as such, I owe homage to the origins of my culinary delights…farms and farmers, because without them, we don’t eat: plain and simple.
The picture below was taken the other night during the ‘super moon’ phenomenon. In the background, you can see a huge farming conglomerate, Eddie Mercer Agri Services, which is the family farming business where my son in law, Keith, works.
Even though my oldest sister had a farm in my early years, all I really remember was how much I hated picking green beans because of the nasty bugs that jumped out at me. That’s it…which is a shame. I also remember a lot of canning in those days. I was only too happy to eat the rewards with no regard for the hard work it took to get them to my table.
I have to say that I have learned more about farming in the last year than I had cumulatively during the previous 55…and I learned it from a 3 year old: my grandson Wyatt. You might wonder how a three year old [just turned four last month] could know much about farming (you would be amazed at his technical language), and I can answer that question easily: family pride.
Honestly, it is impossible not to respect farming [and farmers] after you have spent some time with the Mercers. They are three generations strong and working on a fourth; Courteny and Keith are expecting their third son, Bentley Keith, next week, and there have been three other great grandsons born to the Mercer clan, Ethan, Austin, and Jake. The loyalty, commitment, and pride the Mercers exude to their family and family business makes you feel honored to know them and proud they would call you family.
I still remember when Courteny was bringing Keith home to meet the family for the first time. She very nervously told me he had not gone to college. Then she assured me that he had a job; was in fact a farmer, and a hard worker. Before that conversation, I didn’t realize that we had somehow given our kids the impression that we expected them to marry a college graduate, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Although we had encouraged our own children to go to college, it was to help them locate and train for their chosen professions. To me, the words ‘hard worker’ translate to all kinds of other good things such as loyal, trustworthy, dependable…good spouse words. A college education might prepare you for a vocation or profession, but if you don’t own those qualities, it will take you nowhere. So, farmer/hard worker was music to my motherly ears.
We loved Keith from the minute we met him. Although he comes across initially as shy, he is hiding a heck of a sense of humor. He is humble, helpful, knowledgable, and hardworking. But my favorite thing about Keith is the way he treats his sons. Although he often works six days a week, and during harvest time, those days can be upwards of 14 hours long, he still always makes time for his boys.
On Sunday mornings, Keith takes the boys out to the family farm (Courteny’s break time), and while they are having ‘fun’, teaches them so much about the business of farming and machinery, that I understand only half of what Wyatt says to me. This little boy knows every piece of farm equipment and its function. While most little kids love cartoons, he loves John Deere instructional videos. The first song he sang was ‘John Deere Earth Mover Action.’ He knows which crops grow when, how they are harvested, and even who does the work. He can tell me why it’s necessary to fertilize and why the ground has to be tilled a certain way at a certain time and which tractor is best for the job.
In Wyatt’s mind, heros are not Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. They are his Dada, his Pap (grandpa Keith), and his Pop (great grandpa Eddie). He thinks they know pretty much everything in the world and would rather just sit beside one of them silently in a tractor than go to a playground. Now that Dustin is nearing two, his love of the farm is shining through too.
I confess, there were times early on during the 7 years I’ve known him, when witnessing Keith’s extraordinary abilities to calculate on the spot, figure out how to fix absolutely anything, and instinctively just know and understand anything mechanical; that I thought what a shame it was that he wasn’t directed toward college because he could have easily become an engineer. But those thoughts were in the early days. Now that I know Keith in his element, and know the entire family, I can see that he did attend a college. He attended the college of farming at Eddie Mercer Agri Services. After all, the word college also means this: a body of persons having a common purpose or shared duties. I’d say that pretty much sums it up for a farming family.
Before I end this blog, I want to be certain I haven’t minimized the role my daughter, Courteny, has played in the scheme of things. It is hard being married to a farmer. You do a lot of the parenting on your own. There is no chance of your spouse taking days off or leaving work early to help you with doctors appointments, children’s sports, parties, or other functions. She works very hard to fully support her husband, his family, and raising her sons to become a part of their legacy. This, from my prissiest girl who just wanted to have all daughters and coach cheerleading. She deserves a big “great job!” The picture below is from her wedding shower—her first indoctrination into the world of John Deere.
Family and pride are two words that just belong together, don’t you think? No matter how big or how small your individual contribution to this world may be, teach your family to take pride in it. Let them see you as the significant person you truly are.