Farm life has much to teach

Mary Mertz

By A Contributor

From the first time we’re told to share our toys to the last shared moment of our lives, the world provides us with lessons. Despite one’s reputation, income level or geographic location, there is always something to discover for potential character growth.

The lessons of farm life are not unlike the basic lessons we all need to grasp on our journeys, though the scenarios are often quite dif-ferent from the teachable moments the average American experiences. 

Take livestock for ex-ample. Farm children learn responsibility, compassion and sacrifice as they care for their animals. Adults learn as well. I turned my back on an ornery ram once and ended up head first in the feed trough. Ignore the warnings that are given when a donkey lays back its ears and you just might get bitten. These episodes can teach you to be cautious whenever you are out of your element. Animals trust their instincts, and we must trust ours as well. Never turn your back on a stranger — whether the two- or four-legged kind. We have all been given the gift of instinct for a reason.

Attentiveness is a trait to embrace, especially if you are put in charge of checking fences. If a gate is left open or if a fence is down, farm animals will walk away without a glance back or a nod of gratitude. Their loyalty to you is low when unlimited space and grass beckon.  And you won’t likely be alerted to their adven-tures until you are about to leave for a dinner date or a meeting in town. Flexibility, anyone?

We are fast-approaching lamb-ing season. Baby lambs can teach amazing lessons. Watch the determination of a newborn standing for the first time within minutes of birth and you will see before you the stamina and innate desire to make it in this cold, unfamiliar world despite one’s size or vulnerability. 

Bottle-fed lambs are especial-ly cute. Everyone wants to see them. Churches enjoy having one in their sanctuary to enhance sermons at Christmas and Easter. I learned the meaning of determination and generosity years ago. Getting small children dressed and ready for church in addition to diapering the baby lamb baaing loudly in your kitchen is a YouTube-worthy scene. 

A field of grain brings life lesson 101 to the forefront. If you plant a seed and nurture it, it will grow. If you ignore its needs or neglect its care, it will die. To be sustained by nature, we must be good stewards of the seeds we sow and fields we tend. Per-severance and faith come in equally handy.

Speaking of nature, man is not in control, despite his wanting to be. My husband once decided to burn our lawn. He assured me this would be a good thing. They burn pasture, right? Sometimes trust can burn you as well. The lawn went up in flames… as did the tulips I had planted the previous year. Our young bushes were reduced to embers. Patience and forgiveness are important virtues that are difficult to exhibit at times.

With the livelihood of agriculture can come the sometimes surprising skepticism from those who might be less informed about farm topics or who are removed from rural life. People pull information from sources they trust, even if those sources are questionable. Skeptics have taught me to do my homework and to thicken my skin against unsubstantiated jabs. Res-pecting and listening to others’ opinions while staying true to your convictions is important in all aspects of life. One should be confident based on a balance of education and belief. After 27 years of immersing myself in agriculture, I’m finally getting secure enough to converse with farmers about weather and yields.

So as 2014 progresses, may the lessons that invite your attention bring you both growth and excitement, may the challenges enlighten and strengthen you, and may the joys bring you a sense of the preciousness of life each and every day.

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