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The Last Windrow: Take a vacation to a farm

I wish I’d thought of inviting people to take a vacation on our farm.

I just read a piece from a national ag publication extolling the virtues of urban folks taking a vacation on a working farm. Evidently we have moved so far from the farm culture that people actually think it is now “fun” to work on a farm.

The following was taken from a recent agri-news publication: “Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut attracts visitors from throughout the region and across the country,” said NPS Northeast Regional Director Mike Caldwell. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip or a family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience and end up spending a little money along the way.”

That was not the case on our farm. We didn’t have cars pulling off the graveled road to ask whether or not they could help us clean up the feedlots or capture baby pigs to be vaccinated or castrated. There were no waiting lines when it came time to climb up into the silo and toss out 35 fork-fulls of frozen alfalfa silage to the waiting cows down below.

No, most of the cars that came to the country from cities and towns would just drive by slowly, riders’ noses stuck to the windows and wondering why we farmers ever did what we did. Why would any human subject themselves to getting up before dawn, going to bed at 8 and foregoing vacations for years just to scratch a living from a piece of dirt?

Urban people wondered about that, but they rarely stopped by to ask if they could help. In fact, I don’t ever remember that happening except when a few volunteered to relieve us of a few apples that we grew along the roadside. They thought they were doing us a favor.

We had family relatives who would come from the city and enjoy a visit with us, and while they were at the farmstead they eagerly pitched in to help with whatever task was at hand. It was kind of expected that if we went to visit our farm cousins, we would earn our room and board by helping with the chores or handling machinery to and from the fields. And, it was fun to get onto a different piece of property and “plow unfamiliar ground.”

I think maybe my family missed the boat. We thought we had to do all the work ourselves in order to make a dollar. We should have been “thinking outside the box” as they say nowadays! Who knows how much money we would have garnered if we’d had a sign at the end of the driveway inviting folks to stop by and grind feed or fix fence or fix the apron chain on the manure spreader. They would have probably lined up to do that stuff.

Well, then, maybe not. Those were the days when the farm population outnumbered or at least was comparable with urban citizenry. Our farm neighbors would not have paid us to do our work. They might exchange labor for labor or machine for machine, but pay us for the privilege? No, that would not have happened.

I’m really happy to see this new trend in agri-tourism. Rather than just picking up a steak from the grocery counter or counting out a dozen ears of sweetcorn from the vegetable display, people might actually figure out how much labor is involved in getting the produce to the shelf. That might be a good thing.

In fact, I think I’ll try putting a sign up adjacent to my garden this spring, inviting those who pass by to just drop a 10-spot in the can and spend a little time pulling weeds from between the rows of corn. I’ll probably have to empty the can two or three times a day and my field will be devoid of weeds at the same time.

Yes, I think I’ve struck on an idea here. I might even be considered for a National Garden Historic Site!

See you next time. Okay?