For the week of Jan 1, 2019

The scent of rain and lightning

By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau

“I know farming is expected to be just another business. But I believe farming will always be a way of life as much as a business for me.”

 A longtime farmer friend conveyed this message at Kansas Farm Bureau’s centennial annual meeting. He is not a retired farmer thinking of old ways and old days.

 While he’s cultivated and no-tilled many an acre, harvested thousands of bushels of wheat, raised countless cattle and more importantly a wonderful family, this gentleman remains a vibrant, modern farmer from western Kansas.

Truth be known, there are many, many like-minded individuals who take pride in their chosen professions of farming and ranching.

Without a doubt today’s farmer/rancher knows very well his or her vocation constitutes a business. Many carry a ton of debt on their shoulders while at the same time realizing their livelihood hinges on the fickle fate of Mother Nature. Still, they understand this business of agriculture is more than dollars and cents.

“My most important possessions remain my family and way of life,” my sage friend said. “That’s who I am. That’s who I will always be.”

Some of his fondest memories include late suppers during the bustle of wheat harvest with everyone gathered around the back end of a pickup, eating cold cuts as the golden Kansas sun sinks under the horizon on the wide-open Kansas plains. Other recollections involve covered picnics in the hay field on a late summer Sunday.

And how could he forget a story about a walk through the old red barn about midnight to check on a young heifer ready to calve while listening to other cows shifting in their stanchions and chewing their cuds.

And the smells – not just manure, but freshly turned soil, or new-mown hay, a just-filled trench silo full of silage or a barn full of Holstein cows on a cold, winter day.

It’s no secret the farm and ranch vocation may be one of the few remaining holdouts where those who toil on the land seek to balance the headlong search for economic viability with emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Most family farmers and ranchers have not lost sight of this tight-rope act. They understand to stay in this business of farming/ranching, they must continue to learn how to farm more efficiently, and smarter. Without a profitable operation, they would be forced to leave their land. To exist anywhere else would be inconceivable.

Farmers and ranchers remain emotionally tied to the sights, sounds, smells and the rewarding performance of planting, growing and harvesting crops as well as feeding, raising and continuing the life cycle of healthy livestock. The indefinable desire to carve out a life with the earth and sky remains an overpowering force that belongs in their hearts.

Could it be when asked about their vocation, farmers and ranchers often refer to it as a “business,” rather than a way of life?

Or could it be they are wise enough to know – that must be their answer?

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.