Yesterday I brought a friend home for dinner and to help with chores while my brother is away for spring break. He has never lived or worked on a farm and has little experience with cattle but he was willing to learn. Here is what he had to say about life on a farm.
Farm work is a great way to stay active. Staying fit and healthy should be on everyone’s mind, but my friend found that working on a farm is much more interesting than spending time in a sweaty gym. Between hauling feed buckets, moving fifty pound feed bags and chasing an unruly calf across a field, working on a farm can build up quite a sweat.
Animals are unpredictable at best. While my friend was visiting, we discovered a calf needed to be treated for pinkeye, an infection of the eye that can lead to blindness if left untreated. Running the calf to the corral, however, proved to be easier said than done, with the calf darting away from the group and running away again and again. Dogs occasionally chasing cows further added to the chaotic situation.
Farmers are committed to care. Despite all the trouble the calf caused, we were committed to treating it – even if we all grumbled about how much trouble the calf was. The alternative to treatment simply was unacceptable. My friend discovered firsthand how caring for animals is a farmer’s first priority.
My biggest takeaway from the experience of having a friend visit was the lack of familiarity of what I would consider basic farm knowledge. Not to say my friend isn’t intelligent, he simply lacked experience. Knowing, for instance, that sheep shouldn’t be fed cattle mineral due to copper toxicity issues seems commonplace to someone who grew up on a farm, but is a simple mistake for someone who hasn’t. But for all his inexperience, my friend was able to learn quickly. He understood, for instance, why antibiotics are necessary to treat conditions that are common for calves and has newfound understanding of the challenges of raising cattle without them.
If anything, my friend’s experience has shown me the importance of opening up the farm for interested people. Producers, be willing to show people around and even have them volunteer help with easy tasks if they so desire. Consumers, if knowing where your food comes from interests you, reach out to nearby farmers and ask to visit – you never know what opportunities may arise and the worst response is a no.
Life on a farm is full of surprises, but it shouldn’t be a mystery or fantasy of those who don’t personally reside on one.