Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Looking both ways

Things are looking good here at the Farm. The recent 1in plus rain was needed. Last night and again today, there was and will be a mad scramble of picking and planting before the predicted stormy season arrives. The garden is already in early production phase. Strawberries, rhubarb, snap peas, new potatoes, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and the new experiment in Swiss Chard have passed into harvest mode.

Out to the north, the  Sheep are now grazing the first patch of oats. Full sheep are happy sheep. and it didn't take long to train them to the fence.  By day 3, none of them were even coming close.

So - on to days subject.

I am a 'fan' of Harvest Public Media on Facebook, and had taken an interest in their special with NET about Hispanic farmers in Nebraska. It aired last Friday night. It came on before I got out the door, and I found I couldn't leave the couch. It was interesting  -as expected.  But the thoughts and feelings it aroused in me were not.

I had watched some of the video clips linked to those posted on FB, so I had an idea of the story. More Nebraskans need to hear and see what has quietly been happening happening out-state. I was aware, but not to the extent the local culture has shifted. And no, its not what some believe. Change has always been hard. And for both sides. But thats not for today.

As I watched and listened, particularly to one story more local - outside Lincoln, they said - about a farmer on 2 acres, with a calf, some goats, and a few chickens, I felt a strange sense growing inside. I couldn't identify it at first, but it was growing. The show ended (I was disappointed there was nothing about the horse trainers I had seen in the video clips - they were amazing), and I went outside to attend to my chores. but the feeling was still there.

I watched the sheep race through the 'woodland gap' (the windbreak) in from the pasture. I filled the water tanks. And I thought.  And somewhere in there, it occurred to me - the feeling was resentment. I felt bad, feeling hostility toward those hard working emigrants, who I full knew were pursuing dreams I understood so well.  Aha! There it was.

Through the night, and into the next day, it became clear. But not until I looked back.

In 1975, Don and I were newly married, farm raised kids, with 2 college degrees in agriculture, and eager to stake our claim - as farmers. We found 40 acres of gently sloping farmland, made a plan to raise sheep and vegetables, and went to the only likely source of financing  - then called Farm Home Administration. Granted, sheep were little recognized as financially viable, and vegetables? They would have to be marketed to restaurants and smaller grocery stores. Farmers markets were yet unknown.  We filled out papers, and made our plea.  A few weeks later, a letter came. Rejection. They didn't think it would work. Discouraged, but not defeated, we modified our plan, and 3 years later planted our now little family on 5 acres.

Fast forward 35 years to today. Where we own a small farm where we raise sheep and vegetables. So why the resentment? - other than the obvious time and much work?  And the struggle to be recognized as 'farmers' on so many levels.  As female. With sheep. And vegetables. On only 5 acres. The struggle with neighbors, the public, and County, State, and national government to establish ourselves as 'real'. It took a long time, a lifetime almost, but we did it. Without help.

And the resentment?  Well,  now days there are all these programs. Community Crops, Beginning Farmers, grants, and now an focus on loans to Minorities and women? Hmmmfp.

Wait....... Could it be that things are changing?  Maybe. I hope so. I hope the changes will be of benefit, and not just more red tape and regulation. I hope the help gets to those who need it.

Maybe, just maybe, (I may be thinking this as self consolation), we have helped in some small way. Like our ancestors, we have been pioneers, unknowingly. Re-claiming a homestead. Breaking ground for a new way of farming and farmers.

I do not resent the individuals. Empathize more like it. I saw my own reflection in those dark eyes. 

Thanks HPM. Keep telling the stories.

They may be differed, delayed, detoured, and discouraged, but dreams should never die.

Farm on.

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