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Chapman: Longing for the farm

By Staff | Apr 18, 2014

Nathan Blessum insisted I run this photo.

“Maybe, I could do this whole farmer thing,” I thought as I approached my car to leave the farm of Nathan and Elizabeth Blessum on Wednesday evening.

The couple graciously welcomed me to their operation during one of the busiest times of the year – calving season. The Blessums walked me into a pen and explained the basics of calving. Four-year-old Trevor shared his expertise too.

My mom can attest to my affinity for farming, which started as a teenager. Spending about 30 minutes with the Blessums affirmed the sentiment.

“You know you don’t need to lock your car on a farm?” Nathan said.

Like a bozo, I was twisting my key in the driver-side door. I don’t even think I locked it, but city habits are tough to break. We shared a good laugh, though it was clear I’m far from a farmer. It wasn’t until I got back to Rugby and googled cows and heifers that I began to understand the difference.

So I have a lot to learn. What I do know is that farmers are among the hardest workers on earth. Taking turns to check on calves at all hours sounds grueling. Sure, it’s their livelihood, but that doesn’t make waking up to frigid temps in March and April easy. A farmer’s day can be never-ending.

I admire people in all walks of life, but the idea of making a living outdoors with your hands has a gripping appeal. Working with animals and the earth is about as pure as it gets. The profession goes back to ancient times and for ages farmers have provided food for people in their communities and all over the world.

Farmers often work closely with their family, which might drive some of us nuts. But the bonds on farms are different. They’re special bonds.

My first taste of farm life was working at a 100-and-something-acre operation in the D.C. suburbs. The family had some animals and occasionally grew vegetables to sell at their corner stand, but their big money came from a fall festival that drew more than 10,000 visitors a day on October weekends. In the summers, I worked up a good sweat in triple-digit heat of the greenhouses. It was a farm, but not much like the farms in this area.

The work was hard, though, and more difficult the first summer as I was one of the only English speakers. I worked alongside immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador and my Spanish quickly improved. My co-workers were mostly of the same two or three families.

I was used to playing video games, not manual labor.

“Vamanos gringo!” I heard that a few times in my first couple weeks. I was working for a little spending money and to build up for college. My amigos were working for a living and sending much of their earnings home to their families in impoverished Central American communities.

The work ethic was there. My parents planted it in our beings, but my peers on the farm brought the work ethic out.

Swinging by the Blessums brought back some great memories and reminded me how hard farmers work – not just for themselves, but for the wellbeing of everyone.

It may take some tracing back, but we are all descendants of farmers. Remember that and thank the farmers in our area for what they do.

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