"I gotta plow my field today, mama," my son replied when I asked what he wanted to do today. Then, he whizzed off on his toy tractor, making rows up and down our backyard and pretending it is his own mini farm. When he was done, he explained to me how important it is to do tractor work so that his crop can grow right.
I didn't grow up in agriculture, so I had no idea what I was getting into when Russell and I decided to move back to the farm and start a family. I had no way of knowing that the farm would have such an impact on our family life.
My parents had office jobs in the city - my mom working in the non-profit sector and my dad in IT. I know that they worked hard, did good, and served our family and others well. But, I didn't get to see them as workers. That was a separate part of their lives.
Farming is a part of our day to day life - something that Whitaker gets to see intimately, in all it's glory and faults. (Though, clearly, his tractor-colored glasses have him only seeing the good!)
He gets to see his dad work hard and diligently, making personal sacrifices for the sake of producing a good crop. He gets to see the virtue of patience, as we plant, tend, and harvest over the course of months. He gets to see what it means for a family to support one another and work together for a common purpose. And he gets to see what it means to be a good steward - of land, of animals, of things.
It's that last one that we've been talking about a lot lately with our son. When things are in our care, we have a responsibility to look after them with kindness and intention.
Our farm land is in our care, so our responsibility is to make wise decisions that preserve and enhance its soil, fertility, health, life. We don't use it solely for our immediate gain - but instead look to steward it for the future.
Our animals are in our care, so it's our responsibility to provide them with food, water, shelter, and humane treatment. We don't exert power over them for the sake of power - but instead, shepherd them to insure their safety and survival.
And even our toys are in our care - so we treat them with respect. (We're still working on that one.)
They seem like big lessons for a four year old, but they are some of the most important lessons we can share, whether Whitaker grows up to farm or not. Whatever path he takes, I'm proud to raise him to be a farmer at heart and in deed, with a commitment to hard work, responsibility, and care-taking. Even though his childhood looks different than mine did, I'm thankful that the farm is such a big part of our family to help mold whoever Whitaker will become.
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