I spend a lot of time with farmers. I’ve spent long, hot days under the summer sun with broken down tractors, helped shovel animal poo in below-0 weather, and (tried) to carry my weight when it came to moving bags of seed or feed.
I love farmers. I live among them. I’ve shared the pains and the joys of these people in some very personal ways. They’re real, breathing, working people. They aren’t murderers or thieves or tree-killers or crooked politicians. They’re real, true people. They’re good people.
Watch a close farming community closely. You’ll see a wide variety of interactions. The Chevy man will tease the Ford man, and they’ll go back and forth over whose three-quarter-ton pickup truck is better. The John Deere farmer might make a poke at a Case IH guy, and mention that he wouldn’t even drive a red truck because he “hates” the color so much. They’ll turn around and end up meeting for lunch or grabbing coffee together. They’re a community of friendly competition and playful bickering. They’re also a community of good neighbors.
Two years ago, I experienced first-hand what true community means. I found myself deep into a chilly Illinois harvest, helping with the everyday tasks this tractors from one spot to another, that pickup truck from the back acres to the this or that field. The family I was working with, one that’s incredibly close to me, finished the current field and told me we were moving to a different one.
I’d been to every field this family owned, and I didn’t recognize the one we ended up at.
Come to find out, we were helping a friend with this field. A local farmer was undergoing treatment for cancer, and his fields were left to stand unharvested until his negative side-effects wore off. His friends rallied around him. We went to work on this massive field, chipping away at it row-by-row. In other locations around the county, others were doing the same. In the end, the sick farmer ended up getting all of his fields harvested in time. He never would have been able to pay his bills or replant the next spring if the close community of farmers in our area hadn’t been willing to spend their time, fuel, energy, and money on the task of getting his crops out and to the elevator. If any of the farmers stopped to think about monetary loss from their volunteer work, it didn’t stop them.
We stayed out late harvesting that night. In fact, I think it was the latest I’ve ever stayed out during harvest. It was all worth it, though. I had a chance to see what a real community can do for its members. I sat in a field with true neighbors that night.
The only thing that mattered was making sure that this friend’s needs could be filled. Now, a grateful survivor, that gentleman continues to farm and will never forget the good will of his friends and neighbors.
Experiences like that make me proud to be a member of the farming community.
Those of us who are associated with farming need to maintain this community. Our neighborhood isn’t just local anymore. It’s national; it’s worldwide. Because of the Internet, we are able to connect more than ever. Take a look at the farmers you interact with each day, whether it’s in person or via computer. Be sure to treat them like a good neighbor ought to, because I’m sure they’d be the first to offer help, should the need arise.