When a celebrity dies, it’s all over the news. It’s all you hear about for days on end. So far this year we have seen headlines and breaking news about Prince, Muhammad Ali and Nancy Reagan.
Some headlines read that these are “American tragedies” and that “another American icon has died.” There’s speculation on how the deaths of these “greats” will affect music, sports, politics, etc.
Their faces are everywhere you look: magazines, the internet, the newspaper. Documentaries are made, and tributes and memorials are set up all across the country. The news goes on for weeks.
What about when a farmer dies?
Unless you know them personally or hear about it from another farmer friend, you may never know about it when a farmer dies. There are never any headlines stating “another great American farmer has passed away” or asking: “How will the food industry be affected?”
Let me clarify. When I say “a great American farmer,” I’m talking about every farmer who has ever walked this earth — not just the ones with the most acres, the biggest machinery or nicest-looking farm. I’m talking about the men and women who get up before dawn and work harder in a week than some people work their entire lives. They struggle to make payments, make ends meet and pay taxes.
They’re the ones who stress and worry about the weather —“it’s too wet” vs “we need more rain.” They’re the ones who raise their children to be kind, God-fearing, loving and empathetic people without even realizing they are doing so.
Every farmer I know from my dad, my cousins and my neighbors growing up to the farmers I’ve met since moving to Fayette County have always been there when someone they know is in need. They’ve been an inspiration in some way to another aspiring or struggling farmer.
Words of encouragement are always passed amongst each other. Compliments are given for good-looking crops. A hand or equipment is lent when needed. The most shocking part is nothing’s expected in return.
That last goodbye
Recently, Mike and I had to say our goodbyes to one of those great men. He had all of the qualities listed above, plus his own unique personality to go along with it.
The day before he died, that man stood on my front porch and told me how much I had to look forward to over the years with my son, and how he couldn’t wait for us to start building our house so we could live on the farm. In his own way, he looked out for the younger generation of farmers.
So what happens when all of today’s farmers are gone? When there’s no one left to teach and guide the younger generations, there’s so much left untaught. You can’t learn everything from the internet.
The American farmer may be dwindling on earth. But I bet Heaven has one nice-looking crop with all of the wonderful farmers who’ve gone before us.
Sheilah and Mike Reskovac farm near Uniontown, Pa. Catch all their Two Hearts, One Harvest blogs at farmprogress.com.