There’s something both beautiful and sad about farms.
Some of the beauty comes in the interaction farmers have with the land. Even though technology develops and changes over time, the relationship of farmers to the land itself does not. “The land” here means not only the soil, but the seasons, moisture, wind, and any number of other variables we could call “natural”.
Nobody who farms for a living thinks human beings have “conquered” nature, because, in any given year, at any given point, nature can take it all away. No one who farms believes they have it all figured out.
Farmers are trying to preserve the land, not just because it is their livelihood, but because it is a duty. The land may turn on them for periods of time, in its unpredictability, but farmers never turn on the land.
Farming is seasonal, and seasons measure time. Part of the sadness of a farm is the passing of time, and the memory of those who’ve served that particular land.
The passing of time is an “everywhere” thing, of course: in cities and other busy places, we can cover much of that up with bustle and newness. When you’ve seen the same farmer working fields for forty years and realize one day he’s not there anymore, there is no missing it.
I grew up in Florida: not the part you’ve ever heard of, but that other part. We had the beach and we had the Gulf (of Mexico), but we also had farms. And cinder block. Florida in the 1960’s was largely comprised of cinder block: the houses, the stores, the restaurants.
I would say, “you had to be there” to picture it, but you didn’t, because… cinder blocks.
My best friend’s grandfather had a farm about thirty miles from where we grew up. Sometimes I would tag along on visits. They lived in a cinder block house, with a cinder block shed, and what seemed to me to be an enormous tractor parked in the yard. By today’s standards it would be more like the size of an ATV, but I was young.
When my friend’s grandfather passed away suddenly, the farm changed hands. I have driven by that place a handful of times in the thirty years since, and it hits differently than other memories. It’s like farmers and the land become one, and their inevitable separation seems that much sadder.
When I had to travel out of town recently, I drove largely through farm country. I live in Georgia, which means if I’m trying to get anywhere in anything like a timely manner, task one is to avoid Atlanta at all costs. So I took a circuitous route through the country, and enjoyed it immensely, as I love just driving through countryside.
Fairly near where we live is a large solar farm; it is a place where urban and rural sensibilities seem to coalesce. I only comment on that because there are very few places in modern life where that can be truly said. Our election maps look suspiciously like population density maps, which makes me think that urban versus rural ways of looking at the world may be more fundamentally different than people would have us believe.
At one time in my life, living out in the country was a dream of mine; having no practical skills of any kind whatsoever kind of disqualifies one from the farming life. Since I’m not crazy about being in crowds, I’ve spent almost my entire adult life living in suburban areas on the edge of rural ones, belonging to neither world, but accepting, and even admiring, both.
Do you have a secret desire to do something you are completely unqualified to do?
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