Sunday, March 24, 2013

Helping Hands

There are days when what I do for a living can only sound dignified, can only sound justified, if gentrified with some fancy-schmancy code talk like "hands on" or "one on one", boutique language for old fashioned pick 'em up and set  'em down grunt work. The kind of work Henry Ford conceived assembly lines for.  The kind of work "our fathers brought forth on this continent" back when Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address.  The same kind of work family members on both sides did with their backs, and their arms, their calloused hands with broken knuckles, their sun reddened necks and their sun squinted eyes.  My house has indoor plumbing, climate control, and electronic comforts they couldn't conceive of, but if we met at table over the noon meal, we would be comrades, understanding both the pressure of the calendar, the urgency of daylight, and the limitations imposed by two arms and two legs.

So....there are nights when I ponder my age as I finish my devotions, and the impending, if not ongoing, decline in strength, stamina, and, most terrifying, memory.  And I watch my energetic and intelligent children work like there is no tomorrow in a business full of risks both natural and man made; I cannot guarantee their futures, their success, with my efforts or prayers.  Hard work flattens the uphill battle, but can never make the path smooth.

But every spring, hope does leap for joy as the earth awakens...again.  And to the cycle of the seasons, we add our own age old tale of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, families following the footsteps of those before, learning by example how to get up, gather your tools, start your task, organize your day, pay attention to your surroundings, and work together.  Designing a bridge; writing an editorial; researching a cure; stringing wire; welding; driving cross country; teaching twelve year olds; counseling; protecting our nation; these tasks do not allow you to 'bring your kid to work'. But my job does.  And therein lies much of the joy of this hand-to-plant, hose-to-water, soil-to-pot, work.

If you ask most farmers, they have stories to tell about working with their parents, their grandparents.  I learned to work from my folks: it didn't come natural...and we considered teaching our kids to work part of our calling as parents.  Our peculiar advantage as self employed farmers and small businessmen was the ability to lead by example; our intense pleasure was that of working alongside our children and watching them grow in maturity and responsibility until there was no need to check their work.Their word was their bond.
Now it's their turn to meld parenthood and vocation, to balance ability with responsibility and channel youthful enthusiasm into constructive accomplishment.  Little hands put tags on baskets, or take a turn writing labels for seed trays, or plant cages around baby tomatoes.  Learning to water is not as easy as it looks! Working with dad and mom at menial tasks means the word 'menial' won't be part of their vocabulary; no task is 'make work' when every minute is valuable.

All work, no play makes Jack a dull boy, but a greenhouse is a fine place for imagination to run wild, like a jungle gym or battlefield, for sidewalk art or kickball, for building forts and smokehouses, castles and kitchens. There is plenty of time for kids to be kids with nary a screen in sight.

Because business and pleasure travel hand in hand if you work with your family.  Decisions are made with one eye on the bottom line and the other........ on where the two year old might have run off to.

Great minds thinking together..


  1. Hey there! I found your blog via MO Farm Bureau Facebook Page. I was wondering if you would care to write a feature for our blog "Faces of Agriculture" -
    I hope you take a chance to visit us and if you are interested please e-mail was at


  2. I didn't know you had a blog! I also found your blog on the Mo Farm Bureau Facebook... I am writing my own blog and I find that it helps to look around and see how other agriculturists are telling their stories. I really enjoyed reading your post, and I love your layout! If you are ever curious here is a link to my blog