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.

To read more of Katie Pinke's The Pinke Post columns, click here.

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.

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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, says Katie Pinke.  (Katie Pinke / Agweek)
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, says Katie Pinke. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)
This week, Hunter will travel 1,800 miles from the farm to pursue his dreams of a graduate degree and the opportunity to compete in adaptive track and road racing. He’s a chest-down paraplegic. His life is complicated. Yet despite his difficult circumstances, we surround him with love and encouragement.

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.

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, says Katie Pinke. 
Pictured Nathan, Katie, Elizabeth, Anika and Hunter Pinke near Aneta, N.D. on August 12, 2021 before Nathan and Hunter left for a 1,800-mile road trip to move Hunter to Arizona. (Submitted photo)
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, says Katie Pinke. Pictured Nathan, Katie, Elizabeth, Anika and Hunter Pinke near Aneta, N.D. on August 12, 2021 before Nathan and Hunter left for a 1,800-mile road trip to move Hunter to Arizona. (Submitted photo)
Across generations of family, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-aunts and uncles and cousins, I see a connection back to the farm. While we love the land and wide-open space, the warm welcome, laughter, encouragement and comfort we share on the farm knits us together as a family.

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.

My heart aches a bit knowing Hunter won’t be just a short drive away at the University of North Dakota any longer, and his dreams and goals are now 1,800 miles away at the University of Arizona. Yet I burst with excitement and pride at his confidence as he embarks on this next life chapter. We’ll be here ready for his return, welcoming him home for what I hope is a Christmas visit to the farm.

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 kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.