I am sixty years old. I was born on a farm. I spent my first 18 years immersed in farm life. What a gift, I realize now . I think. it laid the foundation for what was to come. My feeling is everyone needs to be grounded in something. I am grounded in living the farm life. Rationally it makes no sense. I get up in the morning and do chores. Chores are a series of actions you do on a ridged structured schedule based on a feeling of irrevocable responsibility. A farmer willingly acquires other living creatures, farm animals, that depend on you for their lives, with the intention of increasing personal wealth. You don’t meet too many rich farmers. Farming is a commitment. Getting into it is a serious decision, getting out of it is even harder.
I am a farmer by choice, driven by passion implanted during my youth. I can’t explain why I take on all the responsibilities of a farmer. They are sometimes overwhelming. They are sometimes irrational. Sometimes I think I could be fishing. I could be riding an ATV on a trail, I could be on vacation. Instead I am plowing with horses, worming the sheep, thawing out a frozen water pipes, nursing a sick animal.
Farming to me is a vocation. Something I do that fulfills a visceral need. When the hour of death comes maybe I can look back and say i made a difference. Anyway this blog is about why I do it.
Mr. Ed’s Farm is a working farm that invites people to visit to see what farm life is like. It is a real farm, not an amusement park seeking to make a buck at the expense of integrity and reality. I t is not a playground. It’s the real thing.
I opened the farm to outside visitors to give them an opportunity to immerse themselves in a real farm environment. I present a positive message but I don’t pull any punches. The conversations are open ended. Children are presented with situations. Their ideas and opinions are listened to and respected. If you are going to be a farmer you need to be well grounded in information and thought processes. We will always need good farmers because they take care of the soil and animals that provide food for all of humanity.
The vast majority of children who visit Mr. Ed’s Farm have no connection to agriculture or horticulture at all. Many do have a compassion or at least a strong interest in animals. It is not their fault they are a generation or two removed from the farm.
“Mr Ed can I chase a chicken”? “Mr. Ed, will that sheep bite me”? “Mr Ed, how fast can your horses run”? These are only a few of the wonderful questions I have an opportunity to respond to. “Yes you can chase a chicken but how do you think the chicken feels with a big scary predator chasing it? Did you know sheep don’t have front top teeth? These horses can really run fast but we don’t want to find out. Want to hear a scary story about the time my horses ran away?”
Children love stories and I love it when they request one. Stories pique their imaginations and curiosity. I can get them to picture themselves in a situation and think about what they would do. I can pause, ask them if they are scared, what would they do, what they think happened next. Children remember what they are a part of.
All, or should it say most, of the trials and tribulations of farming have a purpose when I find a way to share them with interested people. My stories trigger their stories. I love listening to children’s stories no matter how simple they may seem. The provide a little window into what they are thinking, their frame of reference. It helps us connect. When we connect, we become friends. It is a sign of respect. Everyone likes to be appreciated and respected.
My friend Duane is a great story teller. He comes by it naturally. He got it from being a curious little kid who hung around older people, listening to their stories. When he works with children he emphasizes how important it is to have respect for others, for things around you. I have witnessed him talking with disruptive children about having and receiving respect. It works much better for him than scolding or threatening. It’s a core thing that children should and need to understand and feel.
Will farming make me rich? Probably not in the conventional way of a large bank account. I asked Duane one day about what he would do if he won the lottery and became instantly rich? His response: “I am rich. I have lived an interesting life. I have a great family. I have many friends that I have shared stories with. I’m in pretty good shape for my age and I get to work with children and with horses at Mr. Ed’s Farm. Winning a lottery wouldn’t buy any of that.”
Mr Ed’s Farm is more than a business. It’s a place where friendships are made, where stories can be told, where respect can be learned. It’s a place to learn a few of life’s lessons. Sometimes you step in a pile of poop. When it happens you have choices. You can curse it. You can laugh or you can take off your shoes and wiggle your toes in it.