The Planted Row: Celebrating our farm families

Stan Wise
Farm Forum Editor

One of my earliest memories isn’t really a memory. It’s a smell — the smell of dirt inside the cab of a tractor. To me, there’s no other smell like it, and it’s hard to describe. Dry and slightly sweet is the closest I can get, but however you describe it, it’s wholesome.

It’s a scent that evokes good memories and warm feelings in me.

Maybe that’s because I was exposed to it at such a young age. By the time I was able to walk, talk and make my desires known, I wanted to be in the fields with my father, grandfather and uncles. Finally, my dad just started taking me to the field whenever he could. I didn’t learn until later that this was “work.” To me, it was just fun. It was spending time with my family.

Now, you might think that this was just male bonding time, but that’s not entirely true. Every day, women in the family would bring lunch to the field. We’d drink iced tea from Mason jars and eat a hot meal together on the tailgate of a farm truck parked under a shade tree.

And of course, the women would join us in the field when it was time to break out the gooseneck hoes and do a little manual weed control. Having the whole family out there made the hot and tiring work of hoeing a field in the South a lot less onerous.

As I grew older and the nature of our family’s farm operation evolved with the farm economy, the work became more physically demanding, but the nature of our family’s relationships while performing the work did not change. It was a group effort, and for the most part it was conducted with joy and an appreciation for one another. The practical jokes we played, the dirt clods we threw, the little contests we held, the hurt kids we comforted, the fantastic stories we told and songs we sang while working all made us an extremely close family with deep bonds of love and care.

This is the foundation of a good farm or ranch family. I think the care ag families provide their neighbors in need and their contributions to their communities stem from an early association of joy, loved ones and work. They reinforce the notion that work and service build better lives.

As I have written before in this column, my experience on the farm was not unique. What I have described happens over and over again in almost every part of this great country. It’s the bedrock of rural culture all across this nation.

Every year, the Farm Forum seeks to honor that spirit with the Farm Family of the Year award presented at the Ag Appreciation Banquet in Aberdeen. The purpose of this award is to honor a farm family that represents farming and ranching and the spirit of agriculture in northeastern South Dakota. The family must be actively engaged in farming or ranching, and the majority of its income must be derived from production agriculture.

Chances are high that your family or a family you know fits this description and deserves some recognition. To find out more about the award and how to nominate your family or another family, contact Lisa Anderson at the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce at 605-225-2860. The deadline for applications is Nov. 1, so don’t wait to nominate a hard-working family for this honor.