Updated: Jan 24, 2020
We stand. We wait. We’re groggy. It’s 7 a.m., 15 minutes prior to our departure.
“We’ve got Crystal this time. It’s not Mike, but at least it’s not Paula,” our coach says.
Crystal, Mike, and Paula are our bus drivers. Last week was Mike, two weeks ago was Paula. Paula’s driving, I should explain, was a nerve-racking experience was for us all. We got home at 4 a.m. on that trip and we didn’t even care that it was that late — we were just happy to be back in the parking lot, safe. Mike has been our favorite so far. He springs right out of his seat once we arrive somewhere and immediately helps us with our bags. He had to drive through a bit of snow and he handled it like a champ…thankfully he didn’t handle it like Paula.
The bus pulls in the parking lot and we shuffle outside. Our single-file line inches its way up the steps and into the seats.
It’s a little foggy and still pretty dark as we drive through Ohio. I think we’ve taken a wrong turn as we come to this little town of Pioneer and it takes two minutes to get from one end to the other, and that includes stopping at the train tracks. I see the water tower, then the used car lot. There’s a gas station, an auto shop, and a bar and on the bottom of its sign says, “In God We Trust.” Then there’s the IGA and that’s about it. Over the railroad we go and we’re out of town.
From there it’s a farm. And then another farm. And another. I love seeing these family-owned farms with their names proudly painted on the sides of barns. Farming is a symbol the great American Midwest. Farming is also one of the greatest teachers. You learn about engineering equipment, mixing chemicals for fertilizers, nutrition for the animals, the circle of life, the value of hard work, the importance of faith, and a sense of dependence and community.
As we drive along, the sun grows taller in the sky, illuminating the vast fields that remain empty, but not for long as spring planting will be here soon. I’m glad Crystal took us this way through this town, it fills me with a sense of hope and optimism. These are the small towns of America and they’re still here, and I don’t think they’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.
Technology is overpowering, weed is legal, millennials worry about finding coffee shops with WiFi. Middle schoolers look as mature as me sometimes and some of them are even pregnant. The national debt is great and the debt of the nation’s people is too. We are a not-so United States when it comes to our politics and everyone seems angry. Obesity is an epidemic and there’s still no cure for cancer. I’ve questioned whether I’d even want to raise kids in this world because I fear what it will be like for them.
But then I look at the small towns and family farms. I think of my hometown and the people in it. I think of all the farmers I know and the community we live in. When I think of raising my future kids on a farm, giving them little chickens to take care of and a garden to tend to, it doesn’t seem so scary. I want them to run around barefoot and get dirty and even get hurt every once in a while. I want our farm to be their greatest teacher because I know it will teach them lessons that matter.
It will teach them that life isn’t always fair, that things break, people make mistakes, and life can get real messy, but they will also learn how to overcome those adversities. It will teach them responsibility, ownership, and discipline when they have to go outside before school to feed animals. It will teach them the value of hard work when they end up with blisters on their hands from stacking hay. And it will teach them then importance of family and friendship, because without help from other people, nothing would get done. Most importantly, it will teach them about God. He created this wonderful world. He provides the sun and rain to grow our crops and there will be times of waiting and trusting in Him when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
In a world that’s fast-paced, ever-growing, and simultaneously connected and disconnected, farming offers a sense of normalcy, of calmness, and home. Sure, things on a farm can be complicated, frustrating, and difficult, but it will shape you into a stronger person both mentally, physically, and spiritually. It requires great faith and from it comes great strength and great reward. Farming, faith, and family are three things that have transcended all of time. We haven’t always had the same technologies, governments, economies, countries, fashions, or arts, but we’ve always had farms that provide food, families that provide life, and a God who provides hope.