Twenty-four years ago this week, small grains harvest was rolling like it is in our region right now. I was 18 years old and nine months pregnant. I had a Division I track scholarship and college degree to pursue 1,200 miles from the farm, a dream and goal my parents supported and wouldn’t let me give up on, despite the difficult circumstances I faced.
My life was complicated — and while I didn’t fully grasp it then, my choices complicated life for my parents and family. They never complained or shunned me, but instead surrounded my baby and me with unconditional love and support.
The farm that five generations of my family have called home gives us a place we all can come and go from throughout our lives. From births to deaths, I’ve lived long enough to appreciate the role a farm plays for generations of a family, not simply for raising crops and animals but for the space and place it gives to share experiences together. It’s home.
Three weeks after Hunter was born, my dad accompanied me 1,200 miles to pursue my college track dream. My family never told me to not go. They never told me to stay on the farm. I knew they would be at the farm waiting for me to return when I was ready or needed them.
We could be a family that discourages leaving and encourage Hunter to stay close to home, to find a career near the farm, to adapt equipment so he can start farming. But that’s not who we are. Long ago, my dad said, go get an education, work for someone else, earn your own income and health insurance, and the farm will still be here. In our family, individual pursuits are encouraged, no matter how far or close to home that takes us.
I know from firsthand experience, in difficult times especially, staying home feels most comfortable. The farm feels safe, an easy place to love. Each member of our family knows we can leave the farm and be loved and welcomed upon our return. The farm remains our favorite place no matter where our dreams take us.
After Hunter’s accident and his three months of spinal cord injury rehabilitation, our family again all returned to the farm to cocoon during the pandemic.
A couple of weeks ago, after a sports camp, our daughter Elizabeth, 13, asked if she could ride in the combine with Grandpa in the barley field. I understood her request, no explanation necessary, texted my dad and drove her to the field. It’s not simply the land or place — the farm provides a calm in the chaos, a getaway when we need it most.
Note: To launch our daughters into their new school year and to help Hunter transition to Arizona, I am taking a week off from writing this column and will return to the regular schedule in late August.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.