Sunday, June 1, 2008

Feeding the Flock

Saturday nights I usually turn in my order pad for an apron and cook at the tavern instead of waiting tables. We always have a large rush after church and spend the next several hours preparing dozens of platefuls of fried chicken, whole catfish, burgers, fries, chops and salads....along with about 100 hundred other combinations. However last night we found ourselves filling box after box of to-go containers to send out to the fields. We have had such a miserable planting season that the farmers dared not leave their tractors even for an hour to clean up and go to church. Women came in one after the other to pick up bags and boxes full of hot meals to deliver to their husbands, sons, daughters, fathers, and perhaps for themselves to eat before they crawled back in the cab and put another row of seed in the ground. Some of these farmers are going on their second and third re-plant of corn this season after the weather washed away their first attempts at success. The rain has delayed the wheat harvest, and the sacks of seed for beans have not even been opened.

There was something extremely satisfying about knowing that the work of my hands was going to provide sustenance for the men and women who labor so hard to feed their families, mine and yours. Life is hard for the small farmer these days as corporate farms have eaten up available ground and tax breaks, and the government favors these big corporations who can contribute to their campaigns and causes. Yet these families just keep plugging along....mostly because they know no other way of life. Around here, the land you are turning and trying to make a living from was most likely the same land your great grandfather turned with a horse and plow. 100 years ago a farmer with land of his own made a very nice living for his family, and perhaps could even be considered wealthy. Today the farmer is too poor to be rich and too rich to be poor. Land = Assets, but Land does not = Cash aid for college students, for example, is not available to these families, even if the profit brought home at the end of the year is less than $20K. It is an impossible predicament...yet generation after generation the keys to the tractor are passed down and another young family throws the dice in the gamble that is the farm.

As my night was ending and I stepped outside for a quick smoke (yes, yes I know...), I watched as a thunderstorm was brewing in the south, fiercely growing and dumping rain on many of the fields that had been once again been freshly planted. I wondered how many of those raindrops hid the tears and sweat rolling off of the face of the beaten down men and women who never give up. They are nothing if not resilient. I am proud to call them my friends and neighbors.


3rd... said...

beautifully written.. it touched my heart as well