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Reflections From Farm Friends' FuneralsReflections From Farm Friends' Funerals

To learn about life beyond the farm, go to a farmer's funeral!

John Vogel

May 20, 2013

3 Min Read

Yes, this is an unusual thing to be blogging about. In recent months, I've gone to funerals of two farm friends, and came away from both thought-filled and inspired. That's as it should be.

Like most of you, I'm not fond of funerals. I don't even want to attend my own! But a funeral or wake can be a wake-up call with redeeming value. That's why I'm writing this.

I was reminded of a few things, none of which the preachers preached. The "few things" were wake-up calls – inspirations shared by those blessed by the lives of those who had passed on.

One thing I discovered was that there was more to both of these men's lives than I was aware of. As someone far smarter than me once said: "The unexamined life isn't worth living."

So consider these 9 examination points

  • Life sprouts and springs up quickly, peaks, then slowly begins its accelerating fade. Prepare for each coming season.

  • Pass your passion for what you really love about life onto your next generation. It's far more valuable than land, livestock or even financial legacy.

  • Avoid getting too full of yourself. Pride and successes slowly diminish with age. And if you live long enough, most who knew of your accomplishments will already be gone.

  • If you're real fortunate, you marry the love of your life. Even if you're not, you can build a marriage with one who becomes the love of your life. 

  • Life's about lovingly raising kids and crops, and surviving disappointments of both.

  • Priorities should be simple: faith, family then farm – in that order. Beware that when farming is your vocation and your avocation, you live in the danger zone – of putting farming first.

  • Farming is all about loving things that non-farmers can't understand.

  • While earthly human life ends, what waits behind should be welcomed. That means it's important to plant the right seeds to bear the best harvest.

  • Once you die, no one can change your path into eternity or the trail you leave behind.

Understanding these things helps keep or restore our life balance. All things begin new, reach a point of highest yield, then whithers to ultimately give way to a new crop.

As for me and my final deposition . . .
My family and a few others know I did my best for them – not for myself. I hope they were inspired, and that it'll be part of my legacy.

The rest of my plan is pretty down to earth. Just pour my ashes into a coffee can (preferably high-caff, American grown) and haul them to the back fence of the cemetery of my family roots. Then, toss them into the wind – downwind, of course – over that fence, to be spread over the cornfield – or soybeans, if that's the rotation.

The Bible says "dust to dust." But I figure I've got a little extra fertilizer value, and can root a couple good ears of corn. And for now anyway, it need not be reported on the farm's nutrient management plan.

Taking these exam points seriously, you, too, will leave more than ashes behind.

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About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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