Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Farmer's Club

Over twenty years ago as a freshman in high school, I rode the soccer bus to a game with the varsity team. I fell into a thorough conversation about trees and forests with a player older than I. Our enthusiasm ratcheted upwards until he cries out loudly, describing a tree with arms circled wide to demonstrate, 'It was HUGE!!!'

The busload of our teammates stopped and started giving him the raspberries for such a display of well, I don't know.

What I didn't know then, but I am starting to see now is that he and I were new members in the local farmer's club. The sweeper on the same soccer team is a full-time farmer. His friend is a hobby farmer and now my assistant coach administrator for the local youth soccer team.

The guy who described a huge tree is a science teacher at our high school.

And as I sit and write, I am contemplating the next step for a broiler with a broken leg (or wing?) in the brooder down below (written as I hear my rooster crow).

The four of us and others are part of a small club in the local area who wake at sunrise and care about being a steward to the land.

There are other clubs in town and by club, I don't mean anything formal, just a clear collection of like-minded people who share a common interest.

There's a golfer's club intent of physical sports, gamesmanship, socializing, and pride (I guess). There are bands of mothers, and home schoolers, and clubs based on heritage and faith.

And then there are us farmers who undoubtedly think about things like I do. For example, I posed this scenario and question to my friend who is involved with soccer.

'My uncle and I let the field grow between our houses for the bob-a-link birds and we were thinking that my cousin could use the hay. Do you think that Matt would hay it when he does Dixie's fields?'

And the response was that he might if we could get his attention because Matt does charitable work like that often. But if I call John or bump into Mike, I might ask them, too.

'And of course,' I added, 'I'd be happy to trade a day's labor for the hay, because I have been bugging Mike about getting on the haying crew anyway.'

So while the other clubs in town brag and jeer over a well (or poorly) played ball split off into the woods, when we get together, we'll talk about how to preserve nutrients in first cut hay, how to diagnose health problems in chickens, what to do when raccoons visit the henhouse, and so on.

My fourth grade teacher said, 'Ok, kids. I want you to write a paragraph about something that is ineffable. Ineffable is something that cannot be described.'

That's how I feel about the fundamental and magnetic attraction I have to my place in the farmer's club. Words fail me. Farming is ineffable to be so close to the land, the outdoors, the potential that we feel charged with harnessing, preserving, expanding for ourselves and our communities.

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