My husband would tell you that he majored in engineering because that was the department at Dartmouth that had the best toys. When we graduated from school and moved back to the family farm in Nebraska, he put his engineering knowledge to work with lots of really big toys.
I have met many farmers over the past 16 years—every single one of them is enamored with equipment. It does not seem to matter if it is a horse drawn plow or a thirty foot disk pulled by a 290 horse power tractor, it pulls them in like a powerful magnet.
This fascination with machinery seems to go hand in hand with a borderline obsession with Mother Nature. If you ever have the opportunity to visit with a farmer, the conversation will flow easily if you ask about either the weather or a machine. I like to tease my husband about this, but if you substitute the word “cattle” for “machine”, I seem to be just as guilty as he is…
Last weekend, as I watched the equipment used to harvest alfalfa in the first half of the 1900’s, I was struck by the realization that farmers are intricately linked with both their machines and Mother Nature. The three make a partnership that ebbs and flows in a constant search for balance.
Technology as it pertains to agriculture and farming is a current buzz topic. City dwellers may ask why a farmer needs a huge machine to plant, grow and harvest crops while a rural farmer may ask why the type and size of machine defines whether or not he is an actual farmer.
Matt turned to me the other night after reading an article on the internet and said, “I do not understand why having a big tractor makes me less of a farmer. The plants that I grow still provide food, and I still work the land. Isn’t that what makes a farmer?”
His comment got me to thinking about what really is the heart of a farmer. What defines him? Perhaps almost more importantly, is this definition consistent over time and cultures?
Matt defines a farmer as someone who works the land to grow food. In his heart lies the desire to bring life to the soil and harvest that life to provide for those in need. Interestingly enough, older generations of local farmers answer that question in much the same way.
Larger equipment and a more advanced transportation system has enabled the farmers of Matt’s generation to provide on a global scale in addition to a local and national scale, but the heart of the farmer is still the same.
What I witnessed last weekend at the antique farm demonstration strengthened my belief that while technology evolves and machines change, the heart of the person operating the machine is constant. That heart holds a love for the land and a love of bringing life to that land that is much larger than the amount of steel required to build the toys that work the land…
What do you think defines a farmer?