The Planted Row: Where everybody knows you

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Farm Forum

When I was a boy on the farm, my little sister Kathy was often my co-worker. She is three years younger than I am, and we have always been close. There were times when everyone thought we were going to kill each other, but whether we were fighting or laughing, we were always close. Kathy is smart and hilarious, so working alongside her was always fun.

Well, it was fun until Kathy decided she was bored and didn’t want to work anymore. When we were kids, if she was tired of a job, she would tell my mother or my grandmother, “My tummy hurts. I don’t feel good.” Of course, they would tell her to come inside and rest, and that left me to finish the job by myself. After a few times, I tried to explain to my parents that she was lying. It didn’t matter. They weren’t taking any chances with the Mississippi heat, and she always got her way.

After she grew out of the “tummy hurts” phase, she seemed to have other ways of getting out of work.

One time we were pulling weeds in a field of purple hull peas, and it was really hot and humid. Kathy decided she’d had enough of fieldwork that day, so she closed her eyes, put her hands together in prayer and said, “Dear Lord, please let it rain!” Fifteen minutes later, the sky got dark in the east, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. Storms rarely come out of the east near our farm, and when they do, they’re usually very strong. I was already getting alarmed when the first drops began to fall, so I said we should run to the house. She ran the whole way with a huge grin on her face, ecstatic that her prayer had been answered. We made it to the house just in time for the rain to turn into hail, and I watched from the window as the crop took a beating. Kathy was the happiest girl you’ve ever seen.

At the time, I never thought she would be the one to take over the farm. As she grew up, she worked at a lot of different jobs. She is an excellent salesperson, and she turned herself into a pretty good business manager, but she never seemed to find her place or find a job that appreciated what she had to offer. She never seemed truly happy, and her life seemed to point in any direction other than the farm.

In later years, Dad began asking for her help with a few jobs on the farm. Then she started doing a few more jobs. And then a few more. Finally, he told her he thought she could make at least as much money on the farm as she was making at her job. Kathy jumped at the chance last year, and now she seems happier than I’ve ever known her to be as an adult. She enjoys getting outside and working. She enjoys selling the produce she grows. She enjoys handling the groups who tour the farm. In short, she found her place in this world, and it had been there all along.

I asked her recently what she likes about the farm now that she didn’t appreciate when she was younger. She replied, “As I got older I started to really enjoy the hard work of it and feeling physically tired at the end of the day. It’s a really good feeling. I also understand now that the whole community comes to that farm. They come to the farm to tell you stories about your dad and grandfather and tell you how much they enjoy the produce. Coming home where everybody knows you is a better feeling now than it was when I was a teenager.”

I’m so glad my sister was able to go home to the farm. Maybe a life closer to the land is something that would benefit a lot of people, but I wonder, if they all decided to come home, would we have room for them?