The Planted Row: The best holidays are about family

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Farm Forum

My large Southern family always had an Independence Day celebration. Depending on how many of the extended family showed up and how many people they brought with them, this little party had anywhere from 40-60 people in attendance. It was a great party, and I always looked forward to it.

When the day arrived, however, it usually began with frustration. Many of my family members worked off the farm, and they all had the day off. So for them, the fun began a lot earlier than the main party, which was usually held in the afternoon. Earlier in the day, I’d see them in their polo shirts, shorts and loafers, visiting with each other, maybe playing a game of volleyball or enjoying some other fun activity.

That was great for them, but not so great for me. You see, the Fourth of July might be a national holiday, but it isn’t really a farm holiday. As my cousins were out enjoying the morning, I’d watch them with jealousy from the seat of the tractor or from the vegetable fields. Only much later in the day would Dad allow us to leave the field and go grab a shower and then put on casual clothes, which rarely happened during the summer. (Six days of the week were spent in work clothes and Sunday was spent in church clothes, so Independence Day was always a chance to dress and feel like a normal person.) Dad was always the last person out of the field, usually showing up to the party half an hour to an hour late. A farmer’s work is never done, and my old man is no exception. At the time, I was usually frustrated with him for not taking the family gathering more seriously, but now I know better and admire his work ethic and determination.

The party, like all good Southern parties, was a feast. My grandfather liked to grill burgers, but there were plenty of other dishes: fried catfish (its own food group in Mississippi), meats, vegetables, fruit, salads, casseroles (I refuse to call them “hot dishes”), and desserts of every kind. The desserts were a big deal. The women in my family seemed to try to best each other in this category, and the only real loser in this competition was our waistlines. While watermelons featured prominently, everyone’s favorite dessert was probably the homemade ice cream. My grandparents made it every year, and it was spectacular.

I haven’t been able to attend one of these celebrations in 12 years, but my son, currently at Grandpa’s Farm Camp, will attend for the first time. Just like in the old days, I’m a little jealous.

Whatever your family tradition, I wish you a safe and happy holiday.

Farm Forum 50 Challenge Series

To help celebrate our 50th anniversary, the Farm Forum is partnering with Capture Dakota to publish a book showcasing the work of area photographers. As part of this process, Capture Dakota is hosting a series of photography challenges. Users can submit their photos and rate the photos submitted by others. The people’s choice and editor’s choice winners for each challenge will receive a $25 Amazon.com gift card, and their winning photos will be printed in our book. We’ve already completed the Barns and Buildings, Farm Animals, Farm Kids challenges. We are currently accepting photos for the Life on the Farm challenge. To submit your own photo and vote on other submissions, visit http://bit.ly/1Hr4PZN. Photos for this challenge must be submitted by 12 a.m. on Aug. 9.

Contest winner

This week’s Farm Forum 50th anniversary cash giveaway contest winner is Trisha Schneider of Ashley, N.D. Trisha will receive a replica windmill and is eligible to win the $5,000 cash grand prize. Prizes are mailed at the end of each month.