I have to apologize; the quarantine has given me too much time to think and too little to do. This overthinking and underdoing have led to a surplus in opinion which has always led to writing for me (sometimes they’re even worth reading).
In our region and Appalachia as a whole farming has always been crucial to our existence. For decades we did not have the luxury of supermarkets and families grew at least a portion of their food sourcing the rest from neighbors. You may not raise hogs, but you had bacon every now and then. This created an agrarian culture that was predominantly self-sufficient. We didn’t need the outside world because we were tough and made do with what we had. If you didn’t know how to tend cattle or start a garden, you got “ahold” of someone who did and learned hands on. There were no “Google machines” or “Alexa boxes” to ask how you till earth and weed tomatoes.
However this article has little to do with food sourcing, but something else we need to learn from the farmer. Despite having almost zero capability to grow food in the Earth there is other knowledge that I have gained from knowing and talking to people who do. It takes just a couple of things really: patience and determination, care, a tolerance for risk, strong discipline, and a knowledge that you cannot control the results. Farmers are the kind of people that will get up early everyday tending fields and herds, fixing equipment with their own two hands, going out in dangerous weather to care for their livestock, and never resting until the job at hand is done and done well. They do all of this knowing that the fruit of their hard labor will only come in weeks or even months, if at all in some cases.
They plod along day in and day out working for the good of others. Every farmer I have ever known could have gone into another field and made more money and time off, yet there they are in their fields. Farmers have the patience to invest time and resources in a product that we all depend on while often being shorted the profits. They have to be able to bear the risk of a season with no crops or bottoming out livestock prices (just like many are right now.) They must be disciplined, rising everyday and getting done what has to be done even though staying in bed would be more comfortable. They have to be out in the barn at all hours of the night because that one calf just doesn’t want to cooperate.
These things are all readily applicable, even necessary for every human being to flourish. My fear is that many of the rest of us have forgotten the benefit of an honest day’s work and need to look back to our friends down the road. In times like these we need to remember what it means to plod along daily, especially when those days string together in a blur and it feels like we’re getting nowhere. Imagine how the farmer feels raising corn when those stalks take a little longer to sprout and grow to maturity; for days they watch the fields waiting for that green to show and wondering if they will get the corn in before weather or animals destroy it. We need to have the discipline to know that this season will come to an end and the harvest will be gathered up only for a new season to be upon us before we know it. Sooner than we think, the quarantine will be over and the fruit of it will be gathered up and understood and we will begin working the fields of life once more striving to grow something new.
In the meantime, we need to remember the farmer and his perseverance, his discipline, his tolerance for risk, and his willingness to plod along every day. Let us practice the farmers discipline in the tasks that we do have, let us persevere despite the risk of a season with no crops, and let us learn to live in community and from one another how to appreciate good tilled earth: just like a farmer.
Morgan McKinniss is a former reporter for Ohio Valley Publishing and currently pastor at Good News Baptist Church in Gallipolis, Ohio. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.