Growing up, I spent my school-years in Florida with my mom and my summers in Ohio with my dad. While those two experiences couldn’t have been more different, it’s where I learned that life is mean to be lived fully. The farmhouse on my family’s 145-acre farm in Kimbolton, OH, became my sanctuary during the summer. On most days, I’d leisurely wander the property line, picking berries, looking for wildlife, fishing, or begrudgingly completing chores.
From what I can, farming is one of the hardest jobs there is. It’s tough, both physically and mentally. Animals and crops are dependent on you, and they don’t care if you’re sick or tired or want to go on vacation. They don’t care if the weather is bad or if you had to work overtime. They need you, and you have to be there to care for them.
I learned a lot about life during those summers at the farmhouse, and I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to apply all of them at some point in my adult life.
Lessons from the Farmhouse
Don’t burn daylight. Start your day before the sun rises. There’s a lot to do and there’s only so much time to do it. Use your time wisely and don’t put things off.
Work your ass off. Don’t just work hard; work your ass off. If you set out to complete a task, do it to the best of your abilities. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” I would hear my dad say with frequency. Hard work promotes good physical health, and being physically tired generally means better sleep. (I also recognized many signs of overfuntioning, and quickly understood the value of balance.)
Maximize efficiency. Finding more efficient ways to complete projects not only saves time, but often minimizes physical strain. Repetitive tasks quickly teach you to find faster and easier ways to get the job done. Being unconventional is highly encouraged, in fact. Farmers are innovators and they are great teachers of simplicity. Sometimes I think we make things more complicated than they have to be.
There is much gratitude in the circle of life. Our family raised hogs and cattle. Most of the time we sent them off for processing, but we did some salt-curing ourselves. While I was thankfully never around for the actual butchering process, I knew that it happened. And I was grateful to the animals for what they provided us. Because of that, I have always had a deep appreciation for farmers who raise livestock. Real farmers are humane and care for their animals. Those beautiful creatures were blessings while they were living just as they are blessings after their time has passed.
Use what you have. Sometimes you just have to make do with what you have. If you don’t have the exact tool you need, you have to find another way to do it. You quickly learn to be creative and appreciate what you have–creativity and gratitude are essential farm tools.
Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Getting dirty is a lost art. In our culture being dirty is synonymous with all sorts of negative labels, but in some ways dirt reminds us of our deep connection with the earth. Going barefoot is their way of staying connected to the world, and getting a little soil under your fingernails may even have positive benefits on your health. We still have a lot to learn about the symbiotic relationships that exist in our environment, but a little dirt is just fine with me. And I’m pretty sure this is where I began to develop the earliest pieces of my personal brand.
Take time to reflect on your accomplishments. The sense of satisfaction I’d see on my dad’s face after he completed a project was unforgettable–a cut field, a trimmed fence line, a painted building–those were works of art for my father. It’s a reward in itself to see a job done well, a task crossed off the list. I understand now that goal-achievement is a form of self-motivation. It helps us build confidence and momentum to take on bigger, more complex projects. We feed our inner strength by saying, “I can do it…because I just did it!”
Take care of your tools. Most farmers have the “use what you have” mentality, understanding the importance of taking care of your tools and equipment. Cleaning, maintaining, repairing and storing tools out of the weather are the most basic principles. It’s a lesson so many of us today could stand to re-learn as we’ve progressively become more wasteful.
Neighbors are family. In the country, neighbors aren’t just people you wave to from your car window. They’re your extended family. They’d drop what they’re doing to help you in a moment’s notice, and you’d do the same for them. They are people you confide it, laugh with, and grieve with. A community doesn’t have to consist of hundreds or thousands or people; it can exist in your own backyard.
These experiences and observations at the farmhouse made me who I am today. And I’m certain I’ve learned even more than I realize. Nature has a way of teaching great lessons when…if we pay attention. But farmers figured that out a long time ago.