“Do you miss it?” he asked as I inspected his farm. “Somethings, of course” I said with a shrug.
See, he knew my story, that I had once been a grower too. That despite my “office job”, I still had an agriculture heart and farmer blood pumping through my veins. That I knew the joys and values of this lifestyle; as well as the hard work, stress and pain that sometimes could feel in vain. Sure, I missed the natural ebb and flow of farm life. I missed farrowing baby pigs and watching them grow. Working alongside my husband and learning, constantly, things I didn’t know. Being tired and proud from a hard day’s work; and teaching our son a farmer’s work ethic and other things that come from that line of work.
There are also things, though that, I didn’t miss: The stress and fear of a devastating disease; nights on cots at the farm to make sure the generator stayed on; triple checking shot records to ensure vaccine clearance; equipment failures; answering midnight alarm calls for fear that one more sleepless night might send my husband over the edge; or the slow building drinking habit to smooth out my “edge”.
We made our decision to leave the farm when consumer demand changes required husbandry changes that weren't compatible with our current facilities. As we privately discussed our future we battled questions, fear and self-doubt. How could things have changed so fast? Had we failed? Were we running away? Could we work harder, sink more into it, make it somehow work? Were we worthless? Yet when we announced the decision publicly to our friends, family and farmer strong community we did not see the judgement or shame; but instead witnessed incredible support and understanding.
The farm goes on, it changed and got bigger and is a good fit for someone else. We changed and grew too; from a once unclear future to a bright one, restarting anew. For me, it meant that we paid off a loan with Farm Credit and then I went to work for them. We feel blessed and so very thankful for how God has always led us through life’s hills and valleys and even bends in the road that we never saw coming.
As I finished up that farmer’s appraisal report, putting a “value” on his operation; I hoped he realized that no matter how impressive his operation was or what this report said; that each farmer would know that they are worth so much more than just the farms they have built.
Julie Harris has worked as an Appraiser Trainee at Carolina Farm Credit since 2016. She enjoys reading, paddle boarding and exploring North Carolina with her husband, Tim and her son, Corbin.
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