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Can anybody really be a farmer?

Well, if you don’t know the answer to this question, the next time you are driving out through the countryside and see men cutting hay, plowing corn or beans, or see a herd of cattle grazing – consider stopping and asking the family living there the question posed above. Tell them you heard one of our presidential candidates make that statement on TV. See what kind of reaction you get!

Truth is, many folks from our generation (late 30’s to the 60’s) grew up on a farm or had ties to farming in some way. We all know that our fruit, vegetables, grains (cereal, meal and flour) all are products of the farm. What about the milk, butter and such? Where did it those eggs and that bacon come from you ate for breakfast? Sounds like the question at hand came from a ‘city slicer’ who had never spent a week with grandparents in the summer as a kid! It reminds me of the ‘city cousin’ visiting his ‘country cousin’. They were playing hide and seek; suddenly the city cousin came running from behind the barn and said, “I just found a cow’s nest”! When the country cousin saw what he was referring to, he ‘ah, that ain’t no cow nest, that’s where Mama piles the Pet Milk cans when she empties them.’

We’ve all seen the cotton, corn and soy bean farms. Now in NE LA sweet potato farming is big! In S LA, rice and sugar cane are money crops. Chicken-farming is still big throughout the South. And in our back yards, who doesn’t have a few tomato and pepper plants? Maybe some onions and herbs? You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy – Will Rogers, I believe!

Jesus was a carpenter’s son, but he knew a lot about the way farmers thought and reasoned. That’s why many of his parables dealt with farm-related situations, so they could better understand Him. Most of the prophets in the Old Testament were from rural backgrounds. David was a shepherd. Moses also tended his father-in-laws’ sheep for some 40 years. Abraham and Jacob had large herd of livestock. Amos tended to sycamore trees (fruit from them). God promised Adam that ‘man would till the soil and earn his living by the sweat of his brow,’ mainly farming. And so through history, society has depended heavily on the results of good farming measures. And we still do today!

My daddy was a share-cropper, never owning any land of his own. A share-cropper rents from the land lord acreage to farm under these terms: First, 1/4 of the profit goes to the land lord; then, 1/2 (or more) to pay for the cost of farming -seed, plowing, fertilizing, harvesting, etc. 1/4 or less – is the payoff after the crops are gathered. For a family of 10, things were pretty tight sometimes. One year I remember that we made only 3 bales of cotton and 2 wagons of corn ‘nubbins’ (as my daddy would describe it). Mama and Grandma used a lot of ‘stretch-it’ in cooking, adding a little water, a little more and then still a little extra. But we were happy, healthy souls.

No, not everyone can be a farmer! It is a soul-thing I think. Out of the 7 Crider children, only one stayed on the farm and fought the annual wars of ‘too much rain in the spring, no rain in the summer, bad cotton prices, poor hay crops, and such.’ This, my friend, takes a lot of praying and giant-size measures of faith. When lean years come on the heels of other lean years, when crops fail to make as hoped – often times the farmer begins to lose control of the farm. He loses his equipment, the bank squeezes for the loan repayment, a hospital bill here and there – it all begins to close in on the farmer and many have lost their farms through foreclosure. They may be forced to move from the land and seek other kinds of work. And we lose dedicated, committed farmers who love Mother Earth and tilling her soil and seeing God bringing forth harvest so people far and near can reap the benefits of a ‘successful farmer.’ I think our politician (who made the statement above) really had no idea of what he was talking about! We surely would not want him to be in charge of our farm – my opinion. 

Bill Crider is Chaplain of Minden Medical Center