Every spring all of the farmers I know start to get super antsy and excited to get planting done, only to roll right in to hay season (or whatever crops they grow), then followed immediately by corn harvest in the fall. There is no time for breaks, just a lot of racing to beat the next rainstorm and praying for good summer sun. When they’re planting those seeds, they are planting hope; hope for the future, but it’s important not to forget to take some time every now and then to admire the present moments.
Summers on the farm now are just a blur of sunrises and sunsets, parts runs, and farmer tans. Growing up working on a small dairy farm, my summers weren’t what a ‘typical’ high school kid experienced. There were no regular pool parties with friends or trips to amusement parks. Summers meant hay season, and the beginning stages of “harvest season”. Summers as a farm kid meant unloading a dozen hay wagons of small square bales during the hottest parts of the day, taking a break to milk cows, and unloading more hay late into the night. Aside from a trip to the local ice cream shop and a week’s break to show cows at the county fair, summers were different from many of my peers, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Weeks’ worth of putting in hard work with my grandpa, uncle, and cousins seemed long and exhausting but I didn’t realize the bigger picture I was witnessing. From the early days of spring when those first seeds were planted to the final hay crop of the year, I don’t think I ever realized just how much farmers sacrificed, prayed, and depended on the help of others. Life during crop season seems to be a constant imbalance of praying for rain, then praying for it to stop. The goal is always to make enough quality feed for our animals and support our livelihoods, that sometimes we, as adults forget to see the bigger picture. As a farm family, some of our brightest moments are on our longest, most tiring days.
I have lived these seasons first-hand the majority of my life and still, every year seems increasingly difficult. Maybe it’s because I’m older and not my spry teenage self or maybe it’s because I’m not only reporting to ‘do a job’ and I’m more invested in the farm itself. Instead of focusing on equipment breakdowns and less than ideal weather, I’ve been reminded (many times) to focus on the things that we can control and try to take everything else in stride (easier said than done, I know!). It is important to take the time to appreciate what we have been given.
Things as simple as a young, bright eyed child strapped in the tractor buddy-seat so excited to be riding with grandpa while mowing hay. Appreciating evening drives with dad to look at the new corn seedlings emerging from the ground.
Irreplaceable memories like when everyone runs out on cooler evenings to have a baseball game in a freshly harvested hay field. Of course, the most common hay season practice – meals in the field. Sandwiches just never taste as good as when you’ve been in the fields all day and take a break to sit in the shade of the tractor and look at all the work you had accomplished in a few short hours.
Reflecting on the good in the season reminds you of why you put in such hard work from dusk until dawn every day. Farmers start by planting a seed and hoping they’ve given it all they can to grow. They prepare the ground, plant the seed, fertilize and spray, working tirelessly for days to ensure there isn’t a missed opportunity for growth. However, one of the difficulties for us is to accept that there is only so much we can do. Every season has its hardships but it’s how you handle them and what lessons you take away for the next season. Enjoy this season, be safe out there, and thank you farmers, for all of your hard work.
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.