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It’s Time to ‘Go for a Ride’ to Look at Crops

Christen Clemson

Trumbull County (Ohio) Farm Bureau Member

photo credit: Nelson Family Farms, Used with Permission

Whoever said that comparison is the thief of joy never farmed a day in their life. Sure, I admit that sometimes comparisons of certain things have stolen my joy, but those are normally things that I can’t change, like wanting curly hair or being thinner.

If you have ever hung out with a farmer after planting season is done, and they are just waiting for the plants to sprout and grow, you have been asked the infamous question, “Want to go for a ride?”

Now, for those of you who think that you are simply hopping into the truck and going to run a few errands, you are sadly mistaken. You could be gone for hours. You could end up one or two states over. You might not even know where you are! See, the infamous question really means, do you want to go ride around with me and look at other people’s crops to see how they are doing?

That’s really the question you are being asked. This means that you start locally, but once you have surveyed most or all of the local fields, you will head out to parts unknown to see how everyone else is doing.

You have seen these farmers. It’s the guy driving slowly, staring out the passenger side window as he drives past farmland. It’s the guy who slows down whenever he sees an open expanse of field, and no one behind him can figure out why.

So next time you’re driving, and you happen to get behind one of these farmers on a comparison drive, slow down, smile, and maybe even glance at what he’s looking at; you might be surprised at what you see.

These, these are your comparers. I’ve even been guilty of this myself after years of going on these rides with my grandfather and now my brother. In fact, I was recently driving and found myself calling my brother. “Hey Craig, I’m down here north of Columbus, and their fields aren’t that much more ahead of us, at least where I’m at.”

This followed a lengthy conversation about what the fields looked like, how ours were doing, and what we expected to see in the coming weeks.

Now, I was on the highway and couldn’t slow down to the 25 mph that my brother would have desired so that I could really see the field, but I’ve gotten pretty good at this skill and was able to describe the heights of the corn and beans and the wetness of the fields.

It’s too bad there isn’t a place on a resume for this skill.

But, most importantly, this comparison did not diminish what we felt about our fields and the potential of our crops. We simply used it as a guidepost to see where they were and where we were. In fact, we were somewhat cheering them on as I talked about how nice the rows were as they showed off their new bright green shoots. Comparison, in this case, also served as a way to initiate conversation. And sometimes, I think that’s the draw for farmers.

In my experience, most farmers will talk for hours about their crops, livestock, weather, diesel prices, and other issues affecting farming. However, getting a farmer to do small talk takes a Herculean effort.

Browsing other people’s fields and discussing what those farmers did compared to what others have done offers farmers a way to talk to new and different people. I’ve watched my brother and grandfather start conversations with other farmers they did not know over a mutual field that both happened to see that was doing well. Field comparison is really a mutual bonding tool.

I’ve even used it once or twice in my life when I had no idea how to begin a conversation. I’m not nearly as good at it as my brother or grandfather was, but I’m sure the longer I live here, the better I will get.

So next time you’re driving, and you happen to get behind one of these farmers on a comparison drive, slow down, smile, and maybe even glance at what he’s looking at; you might be surprised at what you see. Sure, it might just be a field of beans or corn, but it could also be a herd of deer, an eagle, or wildlife enjoying the farmer’s work.

Christen Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County (Ohio) Farm Bureau who completed her doctorate at Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca Township, Ohio. The column was originally published by Ohio Farm Bureau.