Instilled

“Why would anyone want to farm?”

    The question’s inference related to the past decade (or three), of unstable weather in my native Western North Carolina, where pattern is no longer a viable term when discussing weather. More applicable is chaos.

    Every farmer is part climatologist. No formal training, to be sure. More like a lifetime of cumulative weather observance, going so far as to keep mounting journals for years. Maybe the effort a small measure of feeling some control over situations where interpreting Mother Nature can mean the difference between bountiful harvest, or crop failure.

    Presented with the question, my simple answer involved the huge financial investment of land and equipment required of modern farming. Not an easy maneuver to extricate oneself from such an operation.

    My family has been growing apples going back to the time of the Thirteen Colonies. The deeper answer to the question of committing to farming is one of tradition for me. But more than habit, the daily involvement in a family business has a way of worming itself into the bloodstream. In extreme cases, infected initiates are seemingly unable to entertain any other career options. In my own case, I became incurable by age six.

    Why not? It follows logically that if a youngster looks up to both parents and grandparents, and observes them working in the apple orchard countless hours, that child is inclined to mimic the tendency. Additionally there is the mantle of responsibility to continue the legacy.

    As a less moon-eyed adult, I still view the production of food for others, to be a noble profession—right alongside teaching, building, healthcare, and more. Farming fills a fundamental need.

    Though I lease out my commercial orchard these days, allowing more time for writing, I maintain direct connection to my roots through a large collection of heirloom apple trees. Same legacy, different approach, with an emphasis on fruit production without pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or petro-chemical fertilizers. Reverting back to ancient varieties which I grafted to grow into the massive, full-sized trees of my youth, the future giants will still be bearing flavorful fruit one hundred years from now. All of which circles back to the original question.

    ‘Why would anyone want to farm?’ is a consideration which I hope my children and grandchildren will seriously ponder. Given this crucial time when population growth is out-pacing food production, will any of them choose to take on my heirloom orchard, embrace the vicisitudes of weather, and keep the legacy alive?