For someone growing up in the middle of nowhere, a map dot, a stop sign on the black top kind of small town, I’ve been very blessed to have been all over not only the country but the world. Parents who instilled in me a love of travel to see something different from where I came from and also a healthy appreciation for the tiny town I did come from are something I don’t take for granted.
Grain farmers have a little bit of downtime in the winter in between fixing what broke during the last busy season and getting ready for the next busy season and a couple weeks toward the end of summer that they can take without feeling too guilty about it ... or at least that’s how it is in our neck of the woods. There’s one family vacation we took on winter break when I was in middle school that I’ll never forget.
Like I said before, my parents and my dad especially wanted us to see the way the rest of the world worked and agriculture was no exception. We were in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin (terrible idea for a vacation in the middle of winter when you consider that we weren’t planning on doing any winter sporting activities), and my dad was insistent on seeing a dairy farm.
Obviously, we didn’t know any dairy farmers, so he went to the local bank of this small town we were in and asked the lender if there were any farms we could drop in on that wouldn’t mind the intrusion. I’m not going to lie, I was a little embarrassed because what 13-year-old isn’t embarrassed by everything her parents do? But not even 10 minutes later we were getting our own tour of not only a dairy farm but the first farm in my entire life that was something other than a grain farm. And you know what? The farmers there were more than happy to show us around.
Now here I am 15 years later spending my summers asking the exact same thing as my dad did that embarrassed me so much – to take tours of other people’s farms. There are a lot of downfalls to social media, but I’ve been able to meet people from all over the world who farm in different ways, grow different crops, and produce goods that I didn’t even know existed. It’s even better when you’re able to meet these people in person and get tours of their farms.
I’ve come to learn that not only do most farmers love what they do, they also love to share it with people who are interested in learning more about it. Social media has allowed me to learn about all sorts of farming online, but I’ve also been able to tour quite a few of their farms in person. Just to name a few, I’ve been to a cranberry marsh, a strictly organic grain farm, several dairy farms, and farms that sell directly to consumers through farm stands and farmers markets.
With each farm I’ve visited, I’ve learned something new about a different side of the agriculture industry, but more importantly I’ve been able to make a few new friends in the process. The number one thing I’ve learned though is that we’ll never know it all. We may know how to do things well, heck some of you may even be experts in the way you farm, but there will always be another side of the industry that does things completely differently and just as well.