Whenever I visit a farm for a story, I always ask the producer I’m interviewing why he went into farming. There are countless ways to earn a living. Out of all of those options why choose this one?
The answers vary but are typically along the lines of “this is what I love,” “the work is very rewarding,” or “I enjoy being my own boss.” (Although I did have one producer say he went into farming because he hates down time.)
However, a couple weeks ago, I asked that question of a producer, and I received what I think may be the most authentic answer to date: “I farm because of my father, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather. I farm to honor them, and hopefully make them proud.”
Making our fathers (and grandfathers) proud. I’d say that’s a pretty universal goal — whether you’re a farmer, businessman, teacher, or writer. Our fathers are often our heroes and can cast a long shadow. Anyone can tell you that you’ve done a good job, but it means more when Dad says it.
I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because dads — particularly of a certain generation — are the no-nonsense, straight-shooter types. When they say something, they mean it. And it means a great deal to those who hear it.
You see a lot of father and son teams (and, increasingly, father-daughter teams) in farming. Farm fathers must take great pride in the children that follow in their footsteps. The younger generation must have great respect for their dads, but they may also feel pressure to live up to certain ideals, and, like the farmer I interviewed, make their fathers proud.
Dads give their children a lot, but perhaps their best gift is displaying confidence in their child’s abilities. To use a personal example, when I made the junior high basketball team many years ago, I was pretty unsure of myself. That is until my dad shared with me that the coach told him I could be a starter if I just gave a little more effort.
In hindsight, I’m pretty sure my dad made this conversation up. I was five feet tall with the speed of a snail. I was not exactly starter material. But because he said it, I believed it. I began working harder in practice, and sure enough I earned that starting spot.
Fathers greatly influence who we become. Of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to have a father that taught them important life skills, mentored them as they began a career, or in my case, told a white lie to trick them into earning more playing time, but for those of us who did, don’t miss the opportunity to say thanks this Father’s Day.
Dads, don’t miss a chance to tell your kids you’re proud of them, either.