My Story

My family, circa I-Was-In-Kindergarten

       You know the old saying, "Just because you spend time in the garage, doesn't make you a car"? They use it to chastise people who pretend to be people they're not. Like a party-er who drinks on Saturday and then tries to make up for it by going to service on Sunday. 
                                But it could also describe my life on a farm.
       Ever since I was little, I've been around rural things. My Grandpa--we called him Pah Pah-- was from a well-known family that had been in ranching for decades, and in his retirement years he bought a 20-acre cow-calf operation back in his hometown. My Dad shared my Pah Pah's love for farming and after a short spurt of bull riding, he met my mother at a 2-step dance hall while he was in the Marine Corps. When us kids were born, we were bottle-fed country music. Literally. We have home videos of us drinking milk while listening to the likes of Garth Brooks, Patty Loveless, and George Strait.
(The proper way to Cowgirl Up.)
      After my Dad bounced around the country following jobs (Washington State, Virginia, Washington, D.C.) my parents moved us back to my Grandparent's home in Florida. We spent a happy three years living at their farm until we bought a house in town. The rest of my life, Granny and Pah Pah's was the cousin's one-stop place for fun and hard work. 
                              I sound pretty legit, right?
      My friends called me 'Farm Girl.' I had the stetson, the boots, the belt, buckle, and photographs to prove it. I could ride a horse and milk a cow and throw hay by the time I was seven.
                              But I wasn't very legit. No way. 
        You'd never know because my mother never photographed it. But there was crying. And cringing. And looking around, clueless, while everyone else was pulling their own weight. I hated dirt and bugs and lifting heavy things and acting quickly under pressure. There were so many times I would stand back and let everyone else get their hands dirty while my Pah Pah shook his head, wondering how I was ever going to make it out alive. Eventually, I was written off as the artsy one who liked the farm life but couldn't handle it.
(I'm the one in the stylish white boots and the fab poncho. 
Obviously rocking it)

 The end. 
                 Just kidding!
           When I was in seventh grade, my Pah Pah passed away. Being too much for my Granny to manage on her own, the farm was put up for sale and we waited for a year or two for an offer. Nothing came. Then, when I was in ninth grade, my Granny moved to a house on the coast and paid my sister to drive out every day and take care of the farm. Being out there became like a sacred part of our day, where we got a break from our lives 'in town' and reminisced on the memories we had made there as kids. 
           Then my Granny started getting offers. They were small and usually fell through, but it got us thinking. I remember being at the farm with my sister and my cousin, walking down the driveway. We started talking about what it would mean when the farm was gone. 
            I remember looking at my sister and sighing, "This is our place. Where will we go?"
          The idea of giving up the one place that our family called home, no matter where we lived, was terrifying to us. In eighth grade we threw a big party at the farm and I was telling one of my friends my fears, and just then I saw my first shooting star. My wish? That we wouldn't lose the farm. 
(the sunset on the night I made my wish)

          And my wish came true. One night, when my dad was lamenting about the newest offer on the farm, my mom turned and asked my dad, "Why don't we buy it?"
           My dad was shocked. My mom was plenty tough, but farm life wasn't really what she was made for. He looked at her in disbelief.
           "You would move there?!?"
           She just raised her eyebrows. "Of course!"

      Over the next few months, we worked out a way for us to be able to afford buying the farm. And by June of 2011, we moved in. We had saved the farm.
(Our watermelon crop our first summer as farmers)

                         Then, reality.
        While my family got right into the swing of things on the farm, I was realizing that this place I loved so much had gone from a gorgeous safe haven to a lot of hard work I didn't know how to do. I couldn't lift a bale of hay or move a barrel of feed, I didn't know much about the cows and I hadn't saddled a horse since fifth grade. And, honestly, I didn't like being outside. It was hot and sandy and a lot of work.
       So my loving and supportive father did what any loving and supportive father would do.
      He bought me a cow.
      My tenth grade year my father introduced his kids to the livestock industry by convincing all three of us to show a steer at the local fair. My sister and brother got two ornery calves and named them Kenny (after Kenny Chesney) and Bubba respectively. I named my runtish and docile steer Clive, after C.S. Lewis.
      Through the next three years I was given the chance through 4-H to learn about the livestock industry that my family was becoming a part of. I learned so much each year and before I realized it, it was the industry that I was becoming a part of. Every thing I learned was another valuable nugget of knowledge about the agriculture industry--about our food and the living things from which it is produced. Even so, something in me knew that this life just wasn't for me.
       Then, in the winter of my senior year, something clicked. 
      One night after we had fed the horses, steers, dogs, cats, and chickens, we were driving in from the field and I was looking out on the pasture full of satisfied cows, munching on hay. They were so happy and it felt like the whole world was at peace. Suddenly it really actually felt like all of it was worth it. The challenges, the hard work, the sacrifices and sweat; it was all for the love of this beautiful place and all the things that live here. And all at once I felt something I had never felt before: determination.
      After that night, I didn't want to just do my time here, grow up and leave. I wanted to learn, to really be a part of this farm. And most of all, I wanted others to see what I had seen about this massive, diverse thing we call the agriculture industry.
      Let me just say that I did not become Super Farm Girl overnight. I still am a rather lousy ranch hand and very much a sissy. But every day I'm learning and growing, and every day I love it even more.

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