Ah, the picturesque rural American holiday season. This special time of year, nestled between the end of harvest and right before the tax season, holds a unique bittersweet place in the hearts of farm families. It, of course, adheres to the standards of family get-togethers (between the chores of course) and all those traditional cozy feel-good emotions. It’s a time of gratitude and to take a quick breather. The kids are back from college, hopefully the commodities are safely in the bin or grain bank. But between all that, there is the unique wave of inevitable mixed emotions that resonate in discussions around the table.
Just weeks prior, harvest was welcomed with giddy enthusiasm and maybe a touch of apprehension. Those typical late-year stresses of shopping and party-hosting don’t hold a candle to this rollercoaster of emotions. Are those futures going to hold? Will it mean new equipment for the next year? Or will it be just enough to make those payments? Will a single bout of unpredicted weather change the course of everything? The various answers to those undoubtedly have an impact on the mood of the holidays yet to come. As the year draws to a close, things like how the election results went, what the industry murmurings are predicting for the next year, or the looming shadow of the taxman can be added to the list of concerns.
The old saying goes “A farmer must be an optimist, or else he wouldn’t still be a farmer.” I can’t think of a better time when this little phrase is more appropriate. For risking the most incredible losses with often the humblest of gains, farmers still find the most things to be grateful for. Any agriculturalist can testify: There is nothing more satisfying than watching the fruits of the year’s labor reach their fullness. Be it a golden wheat field staggered with combines or the last trailer full of fat steers or finished hogs, there are few such humble achievements that evoke a more genuine sense of pride. Not every family gets to share these kinds of feats at the end of every year.
Sometimes, the holding to the “privilege of farming” at the end of the year is enough. Too often, families sit around the tree or table wondering if they will still be on the farm doing the same thing next year. It’s a time of family disputes, the generational confrontations about the best way to go forward. While the details have changed, it seems as long as there has been civilized agriculture, through each era and generation, these are the fears, joys and celebrations the seasonal festivities evoke.
Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic agvocate, professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.