By Lacen Matheny
Farming is defined as “the activity or business of growing crops and/or raising livestock." To many, it is much more than that. Farming is feeding the animals before yourself, obsessively checking the weather forecast, and losing sleep over things out of your control.
Being a farmer means hard work matched by an abundance of rewards, cherishing family traditions, and crying with frustration over broken equipment. Farming is many things, but perhaps above all, farming is love.
When I was younger, I spent all the time I could with my grandpa on his “hobby farm.” I always wanted to be by his side, and because of that I learned about his livestock, the garden, and everything in between. I will never forget how we enjoyed riding the four-wheeler down the bottom to check his cows. Every year he’d point out a new steer or heifer and say, “That one right there is yours.” I was beyond excited to have my very own cows and I developed a passion for learning as much as I could about anything related to agriculture. I always wanted to be at my pappy’s farm, no matter what we were doing.
When I was a sophomore in high school, my grandpa passed away unexpectedly. I was broken and torn beyond words for losing my absolute best friend. I was only 15 when he died, and I felt cheated for not having more time with him.
I soon learned that he had willed the farm to me and my older sister. My sister didn’t have any interest in working the land or raising animals, so I was the only one in the family that wanted to follow in his farming footsteps.
Over the years I have made many mistakes. I’ve done way more wrong than I have right, but I’m learning every day. One of the biggest things I’ve to come to understand is that farming is not an easy endeavor. There have been many times things haven’t gone as planned, and many more that I’ve felt like I could never catch a break. Just when I want to throw in the towel, I think about checking the cows with my grandpa. I think about all the work he put in for me to have what I do and all the wonderful time we spent together doing farm chores. Love is the most powerful motivator.
It’s during the hardest times on the farm that I realize that all the knowledge my grandpa shared with me was how he showed me he cared for me. He let me in on a passion and a way of life that couldn’t be more worthwhile. There’s not a place in the world I would rather live than on the homeplace he created.
Despite all the setbacks, we’ll keep feeding in below zero temperatures and busting ice filled troughs. We’ll continue Googling symptoms of sick animals or calling any vet we can find. We’ll fix the fence no matter how many times it needs repaired and replant crops that were destroyed the prior year. We won’t ever quit or give up, because farming is love and nobody has more to give than the farmer.
Lacen Matheny is a Farm Bureau member and Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee member in West Virginia. This column is republished with permission.