Wednesday, February 26, 2014

So, Are You a Farmer?

There are some questions I get pretty commonly, and this is one I want to address today.  "So, are you a farmer?"  Well, what's your definition of a farmer, and we will go from there.

I have worked for a farmer, raising corn, beans, wheat, rye, and pigs, and this will be my fourth summer with him.  What makes someone a farmer?  Does that mean you own the land?  You're the one that plants and harvests the fields?  You get the check when crops are sold?  You pay the bills?  You care for the livestock?  If you ask me if I'm a farmer, I will say yes. 


I don't own the land, a single seed or pig, any of the equipment, and I don't pay the bills.  What makes me a farmer then?  When I'm at home and can work, my alarm goes off at 5:30, I get up, and head to the farm.  No matter the season, I have pigs to feed, feed to grind, and other tasks to do.  Depending on the time of year, we may have crops to either get in or out of the ground, fertilizer to put down, manure to haul, pigs to sell, and there is always something that needs fixed.  Do I look at this as a job?  Not a chance.  What is it then?  It's farming in America.  You can call it work, by definition of the word, but it's a labor of love for me.  Most farmers wouldn't be there if it wasn't.  I do this because I want to, not because I feel I have to.  Nobody makes me - it's about loving what you 're doing.

I need to clarify why I use the term "we" when I talk about things happening, as it was a point of contention last week.  As I mentioned, I'm an employee in the operation.  I say "we" because when work gets done, if I'm a part of it, in the end, "we" did it.

What do I think makes a farmer?  I think a farmer is something special.  Man or woman, a farmer is someone who spends some portion of their lives growing row crops, raising livestock, keeping bees, growing produce, running a hobby farm with a corn maze, or doing some other sort of similar activity.  Farmers are something special.  Farmers are built of dedication, patience, hard work, tired backs, strong arms, and a heart of gold.  Paul Harvey mentioned much of this in his 1976 "So God Made a Farmer" talk, made popular again by Ram Trucks in the last year.

"And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer.
"I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife's done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon -- and mean it." So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, 'Maybe next year.' I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain'n from 'tractor back,' put in another seventy-two hours." So God made a farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor's place. So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week's work with a five-mile drive to church.
"Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life 'doing what dad does.'" So God made a farmer."
From .

To answer my question, yes, I am a farmer.  By one definition or another, I am.  I love the animals on the farm.  I love the land and am doing my part to conserve it, improving it for future generations.  I want to make sure I'm helping to produce the very best of what all I help raise on the farm.  I farm for the consumer, because that farm is where my heart is.  This is the difference between the people that say they're going to "work," and my "I'm headed to the farm."  It's about so much more than a paycheck, and until you've experienced it yourself, it's hard to understand.

I don't own it, but I love it all the same.  It's my second home.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Sense of Belonging

We all have a different calling in life, and sometimes it takes longer than others to find it.  What makes this whole process a little simpler is knowing your niche.  The golden question is "What is MY niche?"

Coming from a small town where I knew so many people, was very involved, and was familiar with the way life "just was," Purdue was slightly terrifying to put it lightly.  I have now completed a semester and a third, and learned one thing.  Big places become smaller when you get involved.

When I moved here in August, my friends were scattered hours away across the state, my family nearly 180 miles away, and my girlfriend over 200 miles away.  I WAS ALONE!  Well, except there were something like 38,000 other undergrads at Purdue that were in a similar position.  During welcome week, or Boiler Gold Rush as we call it, all of the colleges within the University held a meet and greet with some of the faculty and staff.  At the end of the week, the Ag department held a carnival.  All of these events served to make us feel like a part of the Purdue Ag Family.  Soon following this, the College of Ag's Agricultural Council hosted an ice cream social, and invited all of the clubs from the college to set up a table and be able to be advertised to incoming and returning students.  This is more or less where my college career began.

I have since become involved with Purdue Collegiate FFA, where I serve as community service chairman.  Coming from a high school with a barely-active FFA, I have gotten to fully embrace what the Collegiate division of FFA has to offer.  The opportunity to continue serving my community, school, and industry on a daily basis is something I truly enjoy.  More than that, the relationships I have built with fellow members are simply awesome!  Collegiate FFA is different from high school FFA in what we do, but we still work and live by the same principles.

Other than FFA, I got involved with Collegiate Farm Bureau, which at Purdue is a division of Indiana Farm Bureau, which is a part of the American Farm Bureau Federation, for those who are not familiar with the organization.  Farm Bureau and Indiana Young Farmers have offered me opportunities to attend two conferences, one in Indianapolis, and the second I just returned from, in Virginia Beach.  This has afforded me the opportunity to learn more about crops, people, policy, social media, networking, and many other topics.  The people I have met and interacted with make an impact on my life every day.

I am also a member of Purdue Agricultural Council.  As a member of Ag Council, I get the opportunity to again network with fellow students as well as faculty and staff of Purdue, working together for the common good of the students and college.  My term with Ag Council just began in January, so I do not have as many experiences to share yet, compared to the others.

What I'm getting at is, when you find people and organizations that make you feel like you are welcomed, share common goals and beliefs, and truly build relationships with people, you take on a sense of  belonging.  In order to succeed and truly achieve happiness, you must find a niche where you can feel at home.

I am a first hand testament showing how a small town kid can make it in the big city.  My recommendation is to always get involved and make connections!  I wouldn't be on the path I'm headed down without the guidance and friendships I have made through this.

Attached are some photos from my time at Purdue so far!

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to contact me any time at, or on Twitter at @ebenkamp2013.