The Old Farmer

37786028I passed him again this morning, on my way to work. My car rounded the sharp bend in the road where his farm sits. He was hitching up his big work horse to the wagon in the already stifling morning heat.  He paused to look up at my passing car.

Mr. Brenner.

He’s not Amish, but he dresses plainly, wears a straw hat and works his fields with a team of horses. Drives an ancient Chevy Chevette that looks like it’s been through more than one battle.

How long has he farmed this land? How many times has he hitched up a team? How many cars has he seen pass by?

He is old, knarled and stooped, but still he works.

I have seen him many times, driving his team, or stopped by the side of the road to chop up a fallen tree, or easing back onto the big wagon after opening the farm gate. He looks and waves, but does not smile. Simply gets on with the business of farming.

I’ve seen his wife, too – also old and stooped, working in the vegetable garden in front of the trim white farmhouse. She tends the neat rows of vegetables, dotted with flashes of color: gladiolus, planted there for sheer happiness.

How long will this place be here, in the bend of the road? Will a son or daughter take over when these two are gone? How long will my little girl be able to say, “Stop the car, mom!” so we can watch their flock of geese, swimming in the little pond by the springhouse?

Will their life, and their ways, survive?

9 thoughts on “The Old Farmer

  1. I can recognize the farm and farmer in your story, Sarah. I call their farm an Ol’ McDonald farm because they have a little bit of everything. Its one of my favorite farms in the area. I also admire how they tend their piece of land and have made it the subject in a couple pieces of artwork.

    I passed this farmer and his team one day on the road and asked if he minded if I took a picture of the horses. He was very kind and said no problem. He was worried I was stopping because he was walking his team on the wrong side of the road. He thought maybe I was angry about that but I said it was not a problem as far as i was concerned. He then went on to explain to me that since the road just had a fresh layer of gravel laid down he wanted to walk the one horse on the softer edge since she could get tender footed. I liked him even more after that conversation.

  2. You’ve painted a heart wrenching picture in words. How many other old farmers, this nation over, are the essence of an era or a lifestyle that barely exists now… most younger people don’t know what they’re missing and that’s very sad, indeed.

  3. Can a Son or Daughter take over when they are gone? My Grandpa and Grandma farmed the land they lived on for the entire time they were married. My Grandpa built the buildings on that land with his own hands.

    I would have loved to take that house after my Grandma passed. The realities of our world prevented it. None of the other Grandchildren could take the house for the same reason. Now the land has been sold the house is being torn apart all my Grandpa’s work falling to the Bulldozer. The land has been subdivided into a housing development. Gone forever and nothing I can do about it.

    All that is left are memories, fortunately I intend to keep them till the end.

  4. Pat, fortunately there are some “younger people” that know what they are missing…

    I have a fondness for antiques and history, I intend to make sure my kids know where they came from.

  5. Sue, I would love to see your artwork featuring the Brenner farm!

    Greg, you are (sadly) correct about the “realities of this world” preventing more children and/or grandchildren from taking over farms. Many times it is just not financially possible. I’ve seen this too, in my own family.

    Honestly though, I know I am romanticizing farm life a lot. It is a ton of hard, back-breaking work. I’m not sure I would be entirely up to it, accustomed as I am to all my “modern” conveniences (like an air conditioned car from which to watch the geese).

    What do you think, Greg? Could our generation really go back to a lifestyle like the Brenners’ after being raised “off the farm”, and now with everything automatic and at our fingertips?

  6. Sarah, I believe that this will be an evolutionary process. I see more people getting back to gardening (even me of all people). My neighbors and friends all have gardens. I intend to double the size next year and am already planting the seeds (pun intended) by planning how I am going to manage the garden. What I am going to plant (more of this, less of that, some new stuff). I have the compost barrel working hard right in the middle of the garden. I am planning how to till and maintain. Looking at the idea of putting my beloved Farmall Cub back to work, after all it is a “Farm Tractor” isn’t it? Isn’t this where farming began? Didn’t we start with small plots of land by which to gain some independence and grow as we learned more about growing and needs demanded?

    No our generation cannot go back to that lifestyle. Perhaps our kids, perhaps there kids will have an evolved version of the Brenners farm…

    I sure hope so.

  7. To all. The answer is yes we can go back and life this way, but know that this is a choice of the heart and mind. It is a tought life but not as tough as public school, cost of grocery store prices Gas and general public attitudes. My husband and I are on the journey back as many of you are. We have a house on the outskirts of the city where we live and well we cut the cable 12 years ago we have chickens for eggs and we make our own butter and we use oil lamps for fun and we heat with wood and bake alot and make our food from scratch. We have taken in severl homeless teens and have adopted also at first it seems rough for them at first and they question why we chose to do so. But when they turn from harse and angry to soft and responsible they end up going to college to become the change that they wish to see. Social workers can not beleive that just living simple with love and kindness and the lack of stuff can turn children around! It is amazing I have seen the power of God turn my house into a santuary for him to sooth the souls of some who really did not know how to live or what real living was. If fact it was a homemade biscuit and butter that reached our youngest and she was adopted at 7. So I hope that this eases some for pondering there decisions to live more simply and taking on the challange. What real hard living is the rat race of keeping up with the Jones’s with more stuff and you working more hours to pay for more stuff. When you only need necessities and time to be the most happiest persons in life. Are you now up for the challange? Do you really NEED the stuff or do you just WANT the stuff? There is more to life than working your self 80 hours a week and both parents out of the home and the streets raising your children… And yes we can go back it’s a choice..

  8. Everyone’s comments paint a picture of a life style we would like to be living and for some return to. I am from the plains of New Mexico where our very small rolling hills and bends in the road (curves) are slowly being taken over by subdivisions, city expansion, and a dairy industry that is unreal. The average dairy milks 3000 to 4000 cows a day….no that is not a typo. Within in a five miles radius of my rural home I have 10 dairies. The small farmer is disappearing all to quickly, which is sad to me. My heart goes out to families that can no longer hold on to the ol’ family homestead. My family never had one.

    Yes a farm life is hard work, but so rewarding. We only have 8 acres and the values my kids were taught while working in a little garden or tending their cows and pigs, have made them the adults that I truly am very proud of. My son, who is 29 has learned to can vegetables and make his granny’s pickles. He is a hard worker, good provider, and yes he loves modern conveniences. But he so desperately wants a farm, but the cost to buy one is out of pocket range. My daughter is a college graduate, also a hard worker but not as quick to jump in and help with gardening and canning. But she does love having access to mom’s fresh veggies and pantry. She is slowly coming around.

    My family can only dream of having what Mr. Brenner has. But while dreaming we set goals for that era and lifestyle where families were close, took care of each other and their neighbors, and were better stewards of the land.

  9. For us, a good place to start has been to come up with fun ways to become “counter culture” (my husband’s new favorite term). So far:

    1. No TV/cable – free DVDs from the library once in a while
    2. Small garden (hopefully bigger when our kids get bigger and we have more time and helpers!)
    3. Focusing on reducing our debts as much as possible
    4. Hand-me-down and secondhand clothing (and toys, and furniture…)
    5. Eating at home – cooking from scratch when we can
    6. As few battery-operated toys for our children as possible
    7. Less stuff for the sake of stuff
    8. Free fun – the library, the park, walks, stories, campfires, etc.
    8. And yes, to the consternation of my friends and co-workers, I boycott Facebook! ;)

    Any other practical ideas for a family of 4? We’re open to (almost) anything!