Over the last year (and especially over the last couple of months) I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on farms and farming. I live close to extensive farming areas, from the cornfields in Delaware, to the mushroom farms of lower Pennsylvania, to the open fields of Amish country, so that reality is quite present in my day-to-day life. Since starting my garden last year, I’ve also gained a newfound respect and admiration for those who grow food for a living, so I’ve wanted to learn more. I have to say I’m fascinated.
I’ve no delusions about the farming life. It gets highly romanticized, but it is hard work. My grandfather always had lots of plants in his homestead, and I grew up helping him here and there, spending long days outdoors cleaning the fields, tending to the trees, harvesting produce. It was a lot of work, and that was a tiny field in comparison to the farms I see around me. It’s the first thing every farmer interviewed in these documentaries says, how hard the work is. But they also talk about how fulfilling it is, something I also witnessed in my grandfather.
I find it appealing. Part of me wishes I could get a little farm going, grow our own food, have some chickens, live as off-the-grid as possible, and get away from the toxicity of the world. I also know that’s an improbable dream, that I don’t know the first thing about homesteading, and that I am in terrible shape to be tending a small farm. But I can do the next best thing for me at this time, which is why I grow my garden, why I educate myself, why I do my best to include my daughters in the process, and why I’m already dreaming of what I’ll be planting next year and where in the yard it’ll go.
Even as I work on living more intentionally, seasonally, and in-the-now as much as possible, there’s something I heard in one of the documentaries that struck a chord with me: farming is all about tomorrow. You plant now to harvest weeks or months later, you tend to your farm/garden now to make sure it’s healthy and yielding in the long run, you celebrate the victories or rue the setbacks as they come knowing that you’ll get to do it all again next year. It is about living in the now, but it is about living to prepare for tomorrow. It’s about an understanding that we are part of a chain of events, and that what we do here and now resonates down the line.
There was a time when I had resigned myself to never having children, and then God smiled on my wife and I, and now I’m a father of two. The idea of living in the now but understanding that it’s all about tomorrow takes on a new dimension when I think about my girls, about what I teach them now, how I spend my time with them now, what example I set for them now, and how that all affects their tomorrow. It is one reason why I do my best to involve them in anything dealing with our garden, why each girl has a plant that’s her own to water and tend; I want them to learn that their now is also all about tomorrow, that their efforts now yield satisfaction in the moment as well as fruit (figurative and literal) in the future.
I don’t know that I’ll ever have a little farm, but I know I will have my little garden, and that I’ll keep tending it and growing it season after season as long as God allows me to. It helps me to be better now, but also gives me something to build towards tomorrow. It makes my intentional seasonality into intentional longevity, makes me look to the future while being firmly rooted in the now, which is quite an amazing gift from a 10’x4′ plot of soil.