I found my farm roots in the bottom of a cardboard box at my Mom and Dad’s estate sale.
There were the plastic horses, cows, sheep and pigs, along with the plastic fox who sometimes chased them and other times was a tame pet. They were part of the farm my little brother and I had, populated by the regular livestock along with assorted animals like the gazelle we got at the dentist’s office for good behavior and a bear that was once a necklace charm. Our farmers and ranchers were plastic cowboys and Indians that came from an “Old West” toy set. They guarded the animals, rode the horses, and drove the tractors that pulled the plow and combine through the sandbox in the back corner of our yard. Size didn’t matter back then. Some of our cattle were two inches high, and they ran with the big Angus bull, who was about 5 inches high at the shoulder. Sometimes GI Joe and Barbie visited the farm along with their children, assorted “PeeWee” and Troll dolls all named for the color of their hair. We had a lot of fun at our farm!
It wasn’t until I saw the tractors and farm equipment all lined up for the sale, and remembered all the time we’d spent with our plastic livestock that I suddenly realized that we weren’t the norm for our city neighborhood. We were the only kids on the block who ran a farm in our spare time. I guess we were so interested in agriculture because of all our visits to our grandparents’ farms. My Granny and Grandpa Konrath ran a small beef grazing business until a tornado picked it all up and carried it away, sending them into retirement. Grandpa and Grandma Voth had a wheat farm and dairy and supplied eggs to Bethel College in Newton, Kansas. We loved playing in the barn, swimming through the “Red Sea” that was actually the milo grain bin, feeding the calves, and gathering and washing eggs. I was more into the animals and my brother was more into the equipment, so when it came to driving combines in the hot sun, and sweating through the invariable breakdowns and repairs, I left that to him and my Dad.
So what happened to our farm dreams? My brother actually tried to become a farmer when he graduated from High School. He was the only one out of Grandma and Grandpa Voth’s 5 kids and 11 grandkids who had any interest in carrying on the tradition. He took classes at Bethel College and worked with Grandpa. But Grandpa wasn’t ready to pass on the farm or to listen to some young kid’s suggestions for new ways of doing things that he was learning at school. So it didn’t work out.
And me? I traveled a path that at first looked nothing like my farm dreams, until one day I bought a goat, and then 11 more, and built that into a herd of 130. And then I started teaching cows to eat weeds, and I traveled around working with farmers and ranchers to help them be more sustainable and profitable. Those seeds, planted on my imaginary farm decades ago began to sprout, and I began doing what I do best: gathering information, translating it into ideas and practices that folks can use, and it turned into On Pasture.
I always thought that my career path was disjointed and didn’t really make a lot of sense. I’ve always thought that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grow up. But now, looking at my old toys, I realize that I’ve been headed this way all my life.
What a long strange ride it’s been. 🙂