My 4-year-old son, Jett, is going to be a farmer. I know this might sound like a reach to those of you who are farmers but please know I truly believe I’m raising one.
Personally, I am more aware of the livestock world and have only experienced raising them on a small, comfortable scale. But my husband, Jesse, has a job in the grain sorghum industry and has had it for most of Jett’s little life. This means Jett has been exposed to milo, which is not only a super fun word for him to pronounce, but also means Jett was introduced to farming as an occupation and sorghum as crop that is very common in south-central Kansas.
Maybe Jett is so mesmerized because we don’t live on a farm. I envy my friends and peers who do raise their children with livestock and agriculture out the back door.
Most days Jett will wear a person out with his farming knowledge. Driving down a rural road with him is like a game of 20 Questions. “Mom, when are they going to plant that wheat field?” “Dad, there’s more milo.” “Mom, look at that tractor.” “Dad, did they double-crop that field?” “Those soybeans are brown and ready to cut.” And my new favorite, “Mom, how do they load the combine headers on a wagon?”
Most often I respond to Jett with “I don’t know, let’s find out.”
My go-to source is usually a local farmer, Tony, who we often see working in the fields around our home in Colwich. When Jett asks me hard questions I make a mental note to contact Tony and ask if he’ll show us how this is done.
Jett also wears farmer-type clothes. Each morning he puts on his Wrangler jeans, then goes for a denim long-sleeved shirt. He puts on tall socks and hurries into his boots. He tucks in his denim shirt and puts on his brown grain sorghum cap. Oh, and he wears a belt. When he’s done, he looks like my grandpa. Mind you, he only has one long-sleeved denim shirt, so I wash it every day. And he won’t leave the house without those boots. After breakfast, Jett packs his toolbox and heads to the garage where his John Deere ride-on Gator is parked. Then he’ll begin working on it, using his plastic tools to pound on the bed and the wheels. Next he drives the Gator around the street and up and down the driveway, and parks it at the edge of the yard. He says he’s hauling grain or drilling wheat. If only he was old enough to drive a riding lawnmower.
But what makes Jett a future farmer is his love for all things that come from the soil. He tends to the dirt with care. He digs, discovers, and he smooths it out. He wants to look at pictures of crops and tilled fields, and touch seed. The Kanza Co-op is one-half block away from our house, and when the grain trucks start hitting the co-op doors each summer and fall, Jett wants to move to the co-op and sleep there. We take a walk down the sidewalk to the elevator and talk very candidly about seeing the trucks dumping grain and how it goes into the tall, white towers. We watch the trucks roll in and go across the scales, and try hard to stay out of the way. Sometimes I think Jett may not even be a farmer who drives the combine but rather will take on the role of pulling the grain cart or driving a truck. He loves those grain haulers, big or little.
Jett doesn’t like livestock. He won’t touch our 4-H pigs, the goats or heifers. He doesn’t want to pick up manure or mix feed. When we go to the barn to do 4-H chores, all he cares about is taking his toy truck or a wheelbarrow and going to work at the dirt pile. Jett cares about the fences, though. And he likes to use his toy toolbox to hammer the gates or tighten the scales or the barn doors.
Jett has a real respect for farming, the practice of growing something from the earth, and for thinking about how a seed becomes a plant. He loves driving by a field, riding in a combine and talking about hay. What a calling, to be so inherently into an industry, an industry that fewer and fewer young people grow up in. What made our little boy this way? Jesse and I don’t talk about farming all the time, yet Jett picked up on it, and it’s made a difference in his little life.
I hope he gets the chance to farm one day; that he is offered a chance to work for a local farmer growing up and that it might lead him to earn a degree or work in an agronomic field. I hope there is land for him to farm and a great old farmhouse for him to live in. I know he’ll inherit a few pieces of trusty antique equipment that will sit in his own future hedgerow, namely an old plow and a spring-tooth.
It’s great to know some kids want to grow up and produce food. For many of my friends who raise their children on the farm, I’m certain they, too, have a little one who wants to drive a combine or grain truck as well. They say you can’t predict the future, but I am going to try. Jett will be a farmer someday. And if you need basic farming advice, let us know and we’ll ask Jett. I’m sure he’ll dream up an answer for you.
McCurry writes from Colwich.