My farming friend Mark Bradley was one of the inspirations behind The Farmer’s Daughter (the farming part of it) and one of the reason I have a soft spot for farmers in general. He’s one of the good ones, the backbone of our country, salt of the earth, you might say. He’s worked hard all his life and works even harder now in a economy that hasn’t been very friendly to farmers the past decade or so. He posted this beautiful status update a couple of years ago on Facebook that helped launch me into a documentary photo project to capture the life of farmer’s in my area. The project fell apart over time, but I’d love to start it back up again and keep capturing the real people behind the industry that puts food on our tables, telling their stories.
Mark wrote another one of those emotional posts this week. I’m not on Facebook anymore but my dad showed me and I emailed Mark and told him how much I enjoyed it, and asked if I could share it here on the blog. Luckily he said that would be fine.
I also once wrote about his son and the amazing work ethic is instilled in farm kids by their parents.
I watched him as he made his way around the empty barn taking it all in. I could see the sadness on his face and hear it in his voice in all the questions he asked. “Why did they sell their cows?” “Why are they just letting the barn fall down?” I watched him peer up through the hole in the ceiling toward the hay mow that once would have been stocked full of enough hay to feed the cows all winter. Now all it held was the roof that had collapsed into it this winter and the melting snow that had accumulated. This was once someone’s dream, their livelihood, their everything. Now it is a thing of the past. Soon to be demolished the rest of the way and be gone forever.
It is hard to explain what it feels like to walk through an empty barn. For me, it’s very emotional and I could see that in Parker as well. I can stand there and picture what it would have looked like full of cows. It’s kind of like the scenes in the movie Titanic where they are exploring the underwater shipwreck and keep flashing back to a time when the ship was full of people in all her glory. I can picture little kids growing up in this barn, learning life lessons. I can see them in my mind petting cows, watching calves be born, carrying around their favorite kitties. I can see it full of light, life, and warmth on the coldest winter day. I can smell the feed, hear the cows contently eating and the radio softly playing… then I come back to what it is now. Cold. Dark. Wet. Musty. Empty…. it is a heartbreaking scene that is played out in tens of thousands of barns all across this country. Our industry has evolved over the years, and in its wake lies empty barns like this one in ruin.
After awhile of silence as Parker and I wandered around, he turns to me and says “Well, at least our barn will never look like this.” With a giant lump in my throat, all I could muster up was “I hope you are right.”
I don’t know what the future holds. I know farms like ours are becoming fewer and further between every day.
When we got home I headed straight to the barn. I walked in the door to be greeted by the familiar sights and sounds of my cows contently eating their hay and lounging in their stalls. I walk up and down the aisles of the barn with a smile on my face taking it all in, stopping to pet and snuggle some of girls.
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for giving me this life. It’s a life that has its shares of ups and downs and constant challenges. A life that is definitely not the easy road. I can’t picture myself doing anything else. I can’t imagine raising my kids any other way than on this farm.
The passion I have for what I do is unexplainable, but is driven by my love of this land, my love for my cows, and most of all, my love for my two little farmers. Everything that I do, I do for them in hopes that they may one day be able to take over this farm if they choose to.