From Field to Fork

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I finally had enough down time this past weekend to watch a movie I’ve been wanting to see for quite some time – Food, Inc. As an Ag Business major in college who has worked for some of the countries largest agricultural companies, who was married to a production farmer for 15 years, and who has since turned agrarian homesteader I was impressed with the information given in the movie.

It was also sad to see how far we (farmers) have fallen. Saddened because this is an industry that I fell in love with almost 30 years ago, grew up with really, and have since separated from because I can no longer identify with or condon many of its practices.

It was just past my 9th birthday when I spent the summer at a cousins farm in a small town in the middle of Missouri. Joe had a few hundred acres and raised cattle and hogs, corn, wheat and alfalfa. Each morning I would go with him to “take care” of the animals. My job was to sit in the back of a flatbed truck and throw flakes of hay over the sides for the cattle. This was no feedlot operation, but cows on pasture with hay as a supplement. When we finished we would pick up a load of feed and fill big hoppers in the pig pens. Even though the pigs were not on pasture or rummaging around wooded areas they were out in the sun with plenty of mud holes to wallow in.

When the time was right we cut and baled alfalfa. Because I was not big enough to stack hay on the trailers I got to sit on the tractors wheel covering and watch the whole thing like a bird high up in its nest. The view was great. I loved being outside, the smell of fresh cut hay, picking corn off the stalks to take home for dinner. Even when the occasional animal died, a fact of reality on a farm, I was not put off by the experience. Not even a little.

Every few days we would stop by the farm next door, a dairy, full of black and white cows munching on cool green pastures. We’d stop just after the afternoon milking was finished, I’d take our stainless steel milk pail to the cooling room and out of the biggest tank I’d ever seen I would pour us a gallon of milk. Fresh and ice cold, milked from the cows just moments before, I had never tasted anything like it. I couldn’t drink the milk right then, we had to wait for the cream to separate so it could be skimmed off and made into butter. This was the full on, unadulterated, unpastuerized real stuff – smooth and creamy.

Once a month Joe and I would go to the sale yard to sell hogs or cattle that were ready for market. When we weren’t at the yards we were taking grain to the mills or visiting other local farmers either on their farms or at their local gathering places, small cafes or coffee shops where locals would meet to talk shop, farm subsides, politics and the like. It was here, between the summer chores and the small town talk, that I fell for this world of farming. I loved the people, the places, the smells, the work. You name it I was hooked.

At night, Joe and I, would listen to farm radio programs for weather updates, market prices, harvesting info and news. Even at nine I was beginning to understand that there was more to getting food to my table in California than just stopping by the store, there were people I’d would never see, places I’d never visit, trucks and trains involved in the whole process that I didn’t know anything about. But, on that farm in the hot humid mid-west summer I knew I wanted to know, wanted to learn, wanted to be one of them. I wanted to be a farmer!

Leave a Reply