July has always been my favorite month of the year. It’s summertime. It’s sunny and warm. No school. Fireflies. Thunderstorms. The days are long. All of my favorite produce is in season locally. It’s also my birthday month.
Specifically, today is my birthday.
Now, I have officially reached the age when I no longer tell people how old I am. That also means I am a fully-fledged adult. There is no denying it anymore. Okay, fine, I’ve been an adult for a few years now. Just don’t ask my age because I’m still not telling.
Anyway, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that my childhood had such an important and profound impact on my grown-up self, especially the lessons and values I learned on the farm. Hard work, dedication, loyalty, curiosity, passion, and a drive to succeed are among some of the traits instilled in me during those formative years. Honestly, I wasn’t really crazy about growing up on a farm while I was actually doing it, but now I can appreciate it for what it taught me.
I always come back to a particularly hot summer. We used to grow cantaloupes. A lot of them. We sold them at our own roadside stand and supplied several local grocery stores, another larger farm market, and various small businesses. I also ate my fair share.
Normally, my grandparents, dad, and brothers would pick the cantaloupe in the afternoon, while mom and I were busy selling the produce. However, on this particular summer, the afternoon temperatures were reaching over 100 degrees, and the humidity was out of this world. Not only did the weather make picking in the afternoon unsafe, it also produced a bumper crop of cantaloupe. Our picking crew couldn’t handle it by themselves, especially in the heat and humidity.
So, our normal schedule had to change.
Dad started waking all of us up at 6 a.m. so we could get out into the field before the heat and humidity kicked in. It took us about three hours (two more than usual) every morning to get everything picked, even though mom and I were also helping. It was awful. Even that early in the morning, the humidity was unbearable. We all came home dripping wet and covered in dirt. No time to rest though — we had to take our showers and get ready for another day at the farm stand.
At the time, I remember being so angry when dad would come in and wake me up. I had no interest in getting up that early during the summer, and I was never a fan of being covered in sweaty dirt first thing in the morning. I hated it.
Looking back though, I can appreciate why we had to do it. The cantaloupe had to be picked. We only had so many weeks in a year to recoup the money that was invested in that produce, and we couldn’t let it sit in the field to over ripen and rot. Nor could the normal pickers manage it alone. The bottom line was, we had a job to do and it had to get done.
Now that I’ve been working in an office environment for several years, I have literally seen co-workers struggle with this same concept. If something needs to get done, we just have to get it done. It doesn’t matter if the job is part of your regular job description. It doesn’t matter if you hate doing it. It doesn’t matter if you have to stay late, come in early, or skip lunch. It doesn’t matter who asked you to do it. We have a job to do and it just needs to get done.
I still wouldn’t want to go back to those couple weeks of getting up early to pick. If I haven’t said it already, I literally hated it. But now I can appreciate the work ethic it instilled in me. As an adult, I don’t struggle with such a concept and I am better off for it. As I get older, I spot more and more of these little skills and life lessons that I picked up from my childhood on the farm. I cannot say I regret that one bit.
And, seriously, don’t ask my age.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.