This article was meant to highlight my most memorable lessons growing up on a farm. As I started to think of what I might write about, I kept struggling with writer’s block. Why was this topic so hard for me to write about? I thought it would be a piece of cake since I actually had grown up on a farm.
The problem, I discovered, was that while, yes, I had grown up on a farm, I hadn’t valued or appreciated this amazing opportunity I was being given. I wanted little to do with the farm or farm life. I was tired of my parent’s rules, having no neighbors, and no cell phone service. My perspectives were influenced by what was on TV and by the other kids at my school.
The summer after I graduated from high school, I counted down the days until I could leave and head to college. I was off to bigger and better things. Before the first semester was even over, I came down off my high horse and realized just what I had been missing all those years.
I could have written this article to sound like I was the perfect farmer’s daughter, volunteering to do all the chores, not caring about boys, and jumping up and down with excitement to go to the weekly cattle auction. I’m sorry to disappoint, but this is not that article.
This article is, as the title implies, what I know now, and what I wish I had known back then. A “letter to my younger self,” of sorts. Appreciation is being grateful that you have the wisdom for tomorrow that you didn’t have yesterday.
1. Family comes first.
A farm family is one of the closest and most dedicated families you will ever meet. Growing up, I could always count on my family. Despite the numerous things on my parents’ to-do list, you can bet they drove me to every sports practice, livestock judging event, and birthday party. If I could go back, I would give them so much more of my time, like they did for me. Don’t be selfish with your time. Time spent with family is not wasted.
2. Appreciate the little things
Growing up, we had no neighbors. I definitely took this for granted. How beautiful, to look in every direction and see nothing but cattle grazing with the mountains in the distance. How refreshing, to breathe in the fresh air. How calming, to hear nothing but the chirp of birds and the grass swaying in the breeze. Look at your surroundings and be amazed and thankful for this moment.
3. This is a rare opportunity. Do not squander it.
It is estimated that only about 2 percent of Americans live on a farm. Think about how extraordinary of an opportunity it is to get to grow up on a farm. My parents were huge supporters of my being well-rounded so I was able to participate in 4-H activities, showing livestock, and showing/riding horses. Looking back, I am so thankful to have had this opportunity that so few people ever get to experience. Be grateful for what you have and the life you live. You are blessed to have these opportunities that other kids don’t get.
4. Don’t take things too personally.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “I didn’t mean what I said when we were working cattle.” In my younger days, I took this yelling a little too personally. Once, we had to stop the whole cattle working operation because I was crying from (what I thought was) my dad yelling at me. Now, I realize when a farmer yells or cusses when working cattle, it’s just a way to release frustration. Something funny that happened the last time we worked cattle was one minute my dad was yelling and cussing and the next, after the cattle were through the chute, he said, “Great! That group was awesome!”
5. Hard work builds character
As a teenager, I definitely did not enjoy going out to chop thistles during summer break. Sometimes, I just didn’t feel like going to the barn to feed my show steer — but I did it, albeit grudgingly. Although I didn’t have the best work ethic growing up, I believe it helped me to develop the strong work ethic that I have today — as well as the vast appreciation I have for all of our hard-working farmers. Hard work is good for you, even if you don’t feel like doing it. Just do it anyways. Your future self will thank you.
6. Put down the electronics
Growing up, I was never allowed to have video games but my parents did relent and let me have a laptop. I spent waaaay too much time on the laptop. Looking back, I wish I could time travel back to my 15-year-old self and throw that laptop out the window. That was the one time in my life where I wasn’t required to be bound to the computer like I would be in college and my career. Go outside, explore, and don’t come back in ’til dark.
7. Slow down
The chorus of a Trace Adkins song says it all: “You’re gonna miss this. You’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast. These are some good times, so take a good look around. You may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.”
Virginia Jones is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a major in Agribusiness and a minor in Animal and Poultry Sciences.
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