The Backyard Farmer

The Backyard Farmer

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

           Growing up on a farm I have always been involved in agriculture. Irrigating, working calves, and rogueing weeds were all part of my childhood. Though as time went on livestock got sold, pivots got put up, and tractors started driving themselves. It seemed like overnight technology changed the way farming was done and farm jobs that were once labor intensive could suddenly be done from a phone or were eliminated completely. Jobs like laying out irrigation pipe on every field, setting and changing water, chopping weeds in a bean field seem to be a distant memory to most. Now I don’t believe anyone misses having to do these jobs but there is one sector of the population that suffers from their disappearance, and that is teenagers. Back in my day (now I sound old) when a farmer needed these tasks completed their first stop to find cheap, easy labor was the local high school. These jobs taught life lessons to young adults, along with new words, about work ethic, where food really comes from, and the feeling of accomplishment when the task was done. Now there are still plenty of kids that participate in farm jobs, but they seem to be the minority.

Not wanting my own kids to be left out of the great experiences of getting yelled at, I mean instructed, on how to do farming activities and why they were good for us, my wife and I decided we needed to do some backyard farming to instill work ethic and appreciation for agriculture into our children. First up was to plant a garden. Seemed easy enough. One night we sat down and decided what we wanted in our garden. We would start small and just have a few basics, a tomato plant, a cucumber vine, and a row of green beans. After our trip to the local greenhouse, we returned with six tomato plants, eight different kinds of pepper plants, eight cucumber vines, ten zucchini plants, pumpkin seeds, potatoes, and onion bulbs. Time to instill work ethic into the next generation.

Everyone gathered at the small plot of dirt that now must be expanded to a half-acre in order to accommodate the bio-dome we just bought. “Alright we need to clear these weeds out”, I announce. My youngest decides that’s enough for her and hops onto the swing set. The three remaining boys start pulling weeds and bunching them up. Soon a fight breaks out as one accuses the other of not pulling their fair share of weeds, a tussle ensues, and I lose another to the swing set. We finally get the new space cleared and I get out the rototiller. I yank the pull start about 25 times and then teach the remaining two boys some new words. “It’s too hot” proclaims the next oldest child. “It’s 65 degrees!”, I reply. “It’s still too hot,” he says as he wanders off to have a popsicle on the swing set. On pull 118 the machine roars to life. Since my shoulder is now partially dislocated, I turn my oldest loose on tilling up the ground. I go to retrieve our plants from the garage only to find that the cat decided to make a litter box out of one of the flat boxes of plants. Good thing I bought extras. Upon returning to the garden, I find the rototiller now shut off with a 25’ garden hose wrapped in its teeth. I look over at all four kids now sitting on the swing set with popsicles and say, “Why don’t we all take a break.” The words barely leave my mouth before my kids take off sprinting towards the house. I spend the next eight hours of daylight planting our garden and reflecting on the situation. I am sure this is exactly what my parents dealt with when my siblings and I were growing up, yet I know we were better off for it every time they made us get outside and work. So, I call everyone back out despite the moans and groans. We finish up planting the last plants as the day fades. One kid speaks up, “This garden is awesome!” “Yea I can’t wait to carve our own pumpkins,” says another. They play in the dirt, look at worms, and help water the plants. I guess this backyard farming thing isn’t so bad after all. The next day I gander out to the garden only to find that a badger had dug most of it up during the night. The life of a farmer.

- Luke Thorell, Vice President, Loan Officer- Holdrege