After our snow day a couple of weeks ago, I sent a photo of our heifers walking along the lake to my manager at my off-farm engineering job. He included it in his weekly email to our department. A week later as I was getting ready to leave my office, filling up my water bottle before I headed home, a manager of a different department passed me and said “I saw a picture of your cows”.
He took a few steps, then stopped and asked me about the cows. He told me the story of his dad who used to haul milk, back when it was stored in cans. When he was a baby, his mother would ride along to open gates, and he would go too. He finished with something like “anyway, they love to tell that story.”
I’m really glad that he took the time to stop and tell me, and for some reason it really got me thinking. This isn’t the type of conversation that I normally encounter at work, and I have a lot of time to think during my 50 mile commute. Maybe this is something that should have been obvious, but finally it hit me: Farming is nostalgic to people who aren’t farmers.
There are some who felt the much-discussed Dodge Super Bowl ad didn’t accurately portray modern farming or modern farmers. However, most farmers I know loved it. Yes, farming has changed since Paul Harvey gave that speech in 1978, but maybe farmers aren’t so different. When the speech was given, farming innovation wasn’t new.
Bulk tank storage and the milk machine were already commonplace at that time. In fact, the milk barn we use today was already standing. Farmers have been looking for ways to improve efficiency, to do more with less, since long before 1978. However, I think many of us still cling to the values of our predecessors: honesty, integrity, and hard work. Farmers are nostalgic about farming, too.
Minnesota farmer Tim Zweber recently wrote this story about an old manure spreader that sits by their shop. And an Illinois farm wife wrote this post reminiscing about an old barn. I don’t think farmers are the only ones who enjoy these stories.
When we’re looking for the link between food and farm, maybe the nostalgia is where we connect. Maybe these farm stories are our common bond with those who left their farming roots behind. Just because we’re moving forward doesn’t mean we can’t look back.