THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Thankful: Learning from the farmer in the Dell

A man emailed me that I need a friend on a farm. I'm not sure how he knew I'm fascinated with farms, but I am. And I'm always curious about how family farms work: what's the life like, and why do people keep choosing it?

He invited me and my kids to his cattle farm in a town of 500 people, one of whom are visible from the farm. I parked my car in the middle of a dirt road.There were fields everywhere. It was every farm: red barn, white house, green fields. The first thing I said to him: "What are you doing out here? All alone? Who do you talk to? You don't even have a real phone."

He smiled. He said he had friends. I looked around and decided his friends were very far away.

It turns out, though, that his friends had kids. The place was tricked out for kids: a rope for swinging, baby chicks, 10 cats, and piglets to pet. We walked to the field with cattle, past hens and roosters, alongside a vegetable garden for the pigs to eat. 

"I don't get it. You read my column and sent me an email to come to your farm?"

He thought my question was funny. "I'm an entrepreneur. And I read your blog because you write a lot about entrepreneurship."

"You're an entrepreneur?"

"Farming is changing a lot. It's a lot like what you say about how corporations won't take care of you and you have to take care of yourself."

The farmer told me about how the buy-local movement is great– it's increasing profits for farmers who can shift their business model. Today, the family farm is about marketing. "My message was a sales pitch," he said. "I thought you had a problem and I thought I could solve it."

On the way back to the house, he told me he thought I needed a peaceful place to go. I thought my life could be very peaceful here, as I looked out on the fields like they could fill my days. I made a note to see how much it would cost to get wireless Internet at his house.

We arrived at the farm at 5pm, so I brought chicken wraps and vegetable wraps for dinner– bagels for me. I brought dessert and  popcorn for my son.

"I know there's a lot of food," I said. "You can keep what we don't eat."

"I don't know if I'd eat it all," he said. "Maybe you should take back the cupcakes."

"Just throw out everything you don't want," I said.

That did not go over well. "Um. You don't throw out food, do you?"

"Not really. No."

I thought about throwing out an Angus steak that I grew and slaughtered myself. It would be impossible. Next to the farmer, I looked less like an environmentally conscious city person and more like a heathen.

I told my son he had to eat two mini-Gouda cheeses before the popcorn so the farmer wouldn't think I let my kid eat popcorn for dinner. The farmer had never seen Gouda cheese.

The farmer asked if we give thanks before a meal. I looked at him, speechless, because I want to be a person who gives thanks, but I could tell he was a person who really did give thanks.

He asked if it was okay. And how could I say no, it's not okay to give thanks?

So the farmer thanked God for our food and our safe trip.

And my son ate extra cheese and looked very healthy.

And I thanked God that a blog can introduce me to people who can change my life.