On a popular television show I like to watch, a grandson asked his grandfather, “Why do we ranch?” The grandfather replied, “It’s what we do.” For me, this rings so true. I’m the fifth generation in my family to farm, and it’s never occurred to me to question why we farm. It’s what we do.
We wake up every day with our first thoughts including what needs to be done, fed or repaired. I’ve seen the physical toll the work has taken on my father and grandfather, the stacks of papers associated with record-keeping, my grandma and mom passing out food from the trunks of their cars, and the tears shed in frustration and anger when crops or livestock are lost. We wake up before the sun rises and come in, many nights, long after it sets. Dirty, tired, hungry — and ready to do it all again in the morning. Why? Because it’s what we do.
It would be easy to quit, but when it’s in your blood, you just can’t. This year, the world has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with shutdowns and quarantines. However, farmers have kept going through it all. Ground had to be worked, crops had to be planted and livestock had to be tended. We worked through the year, ordering parts to pick up outside locked store doors, watching prices drop faster than ever, and completing harvest while going masked into stores with prices climbing back up. It hasn’t been easy, but we have been finding our way through it. Why? Because it’s what we do.
More than plows and sows
There’s something else that goes with farming: Beyond the soil, tractors and feed bunks, there’s family. Family is not only siblings, parents and grandparents, but also the employees on the farm. We’ve always taken care of each other, but this year it’s been a new daily check-in on everyone. We spend more time together around the table, hanging out after a long day in the barn with nowhere else to go and attending church on Sunday mornings to refresh our souls. Why? Because it’s what we do.
I’m halfway through my year of service as an Indiana FFA state officer, and my team and I are learning new ways to share our passion for agriculture with the students of our great state. Helping young and old understand why agriculture is vital to the survival of our world is paramount, pandemic or not. Sharing my personal history and connection to our family farm is even more important.
I have a 6-year-old nephew who sees what his dad (my brother) does, what I do and what his grandpa (my dad) does every day. I hope and pray we ignite the flame in him to do the same. I no longer have my grandfather to sit down with and ask, “Why do we farm?” But I am pretty sure his answer would be, “It’s what we do, Loren. It’s what we do.”
Matlock is the 2020-21 Indiana FFA Southern Region vice president.