At Look East, some of us are from farms and others from cities, but we all have a deep connection and passion for the food system and how food is produced. Many of us can tie that connection to our father, whether it was working on a farm, cooking at family BBQs or a shared love of a special food. In honor of Father's Day this Sunday, the Look East team shared some of their favorite memories of their fathers from the farm or the table.
Growing up on a hog and cattle farm, I learned the value of hard work and not giving up until you’ve accomplished what needs to be done to best care for your animals. I learned these lessons from my dad. He showed me the value of hard work both on the farm and by driving four hours to the state capital to represent the communities he was elected to serve in the state legislature. This meant he was away from home Monday through Thursday, and part of my duties were to take care of the hogs, as part of my FFA supervised agricultural experience (SAE.) This did present occasional challenges, like the time the auger delivering the feed to the hog house quit working while Dad was in Jefferson City.
This was before cell phones, so during his nightly call home, Dad would relay instructions to Mom on a cordless phone standing outside, who would relay instructions to me, as I was running back and forth from the hog house or the controls to the augers. The first tip didn’t work, so I would talk to Dad on the phone or get more instructions from Mom, and back down to the hog barn I would go. The next tip didn’t work either, or the one after that. In fact, we never did get the auger to the barn working that night. But we were able to grind corn into a wheelbarrow and the scoop shovel I used to feed the hogs by hand was fully operational.
That night I learned the value of improvisation, finding a way to make a bad situation better, and not quitting. I soon went off to college and we got out of the hog business in 1994. I have spent my professional career in communications, working to build trust in the food and ag system, but I’ll never forget trying to fix an auger by cordless phone, and know that livestock producers sacrifice their time, sleep and energy on a daily basis to provide the best care for their animals.
My dad has always been a big supporter in all that I do and I am very grateful to have such a wonderful dad. He swore he was never going to marry a cowgirl, but he married my mom and ended up having two cowgirl daughters.
My dad made a point to be at all of my dairy shows. At most shows, at least one of my cows would get cranky right before the show and I would have to try to calm her down before our class was called. Many times, I needed some help. My dad would walk my cow while I ran around, putting last details into place. The cows were not my dad’s thing, but whenever I needed help, he was there for me.
I grew up on a farming ranch operation in Southeast Kansas. Most of the valuable lessons I apply to my everyday life came from working on the farm and soaking up the pithy knowledge from my father. I was the youngest of three by six years, and my version of preschool was checking cattle with my parents. With the windows down and dust blowing in the cab of the Ford F150, I enjoyed the fine workings of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. I learned, that even with humble beginnings, one should always have a little class. When I was 12, I broke my arm falling off a horse. I learned two lessons: boys born in the 40’s were tougher than girls that were born in the 80’s, and having a veterinarian set my broken bones would have been less expensive and preferential than having a doctor do it. My mother wanted to keep me in the house one summer to teach me cooking, cleaning, etc. I learned that if I got up early enough and proved my worth and competence outside to my father, his uses for me on a tractor in the field trumped Mom’s plans of teaching me how to cook anything beside spaghetti or pancakes.
I “helped” my dad pull calves and goats on a few occasions, learning the importance of teamwork and using colorful language to accomplish a difficult task. When it came time for me to deliver my baby, I was also so thankful to have a kind, gentle doctor coach me through labor, while subconsciously imagining what Dad would be shouting if I were a cow.
Farming taught me patience. The garden takes time to grow before the fruits can be reaped. Life is similar; you put in the work, do your best, hope for some sunshine to follow the rainy days and enjoy the reward when the time comes. Thanks to my dad for the stern voice and guiding hand that has led me to where I am today.