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Should you designate a farm photographer?

Photos by Don Cummings combine harvesting corn at sunset
NIGHT SHIFT: Work doesn’t stop at sundown in busy seasons on Brian Thompson’s farm near Seymour in Jackson County, Ind.
At least one person believes there is value in recording what happens season by season.

Did your dad own a Massey-Harris 44 tractor? Or was it a Massey-Harris 33? If your dad farmed on his own 40 years ago, he’s passed away and all his stuff is gone, how will you ever know? Is it important to know?

I can answer the question for myself. My dad farmed with a Massey-Harris 44 when I was 6 years old. I know because my mother captured it in a photo, showing Dad and me “working” on two-row Massey-Harris mounted cultivators. I couldn’t have been older than 6 because I was wearing shorts, and I never wore shorts once I was old enough to pick out my own clothes. And even though I inherited my dad’s inability to fix almost anything, there I am with a wrench in my hand.

That small photo means so much to me that I asked an artist to paint it for me. The photo hangs in our family room, documenting Dad with his typical brown work shirt and green cap, before seed corn companies got in the cap business.

Farm photographer

Don Cummings, Jackson County, Ind., brought up the idea that every farm should have a photographer to document what happens season by season, year by year, when he sent me striking photos he took from his own area. A retired dentist who owns farmland and still farms in Jackson County, Cummings drove a grain cart for Brian Thompson. The scenic corn and soybean harvest shots are from the Thompson farm.

combine harvesting at sunset

HOW DUSTY WAS HARVEST? Was it dusty when you harvested soybeans this fall? Will you remember that by next fall? You will if you took photos of it.

“I carried a camera in the cab, and I took pictures when I saw a neat scene while I was in the field, waiting on the combine,” Cummings says. “I dubbed myself the official farm photographer.”

While Cummings may have been half-joking when he assumed his title, he sees real value in recording farm life. He did it with a still camera. Today, some do it with video on their phone.

“There are some beautiful scenes Mother Nature creates on the farm, but they are fleeting,” Cummings says. “More than that, it’s good to have a record of what the crop looked like and which piece of machinery you were using. When you look back later, it may jog your memory.”

sunrise over red barn

FIERY SUNRISE: Don Cummings, Seymour, Ind., captured this spectacular scene from his back porch on a chilly December morning.

Amen to the fact that as you grow older, your memory will need jogging. The next step is to take time to organize your photos. Digital cameras are great because you can snap photo after photo and edit them later. Digital cameras can be bad if you don’t force yourself to edit photos and move them to where future family members can find them. My grandson is 12 years old, and I still have photos of him as a baby mixed in among crop and farmer shots.

The long days in the field Cummings captured will end soon. Find time this winter to organize those photos, and leave your children photographic evidence so they don’t have to try to remember if your first combine was a John Deere 7700 or 9510.

Comments? Email [email protected].

TAGS: Farm Life
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