a story of Southern agriculture

A Bridge Back. A Way Forward.

A Bridge Back. A Way Forward.

Journal Date: 9/21/2013, the last calendar date of summer, Saturday

It has rained all morning, and I’m glad.  We haven’t had any rain for about a month.  Mowing the lawn is like reenacting the Dust Bowl.  Passing by my Rose of Sharon shrub sends my memory back to high school and The Grapes of Wrath.

After the early part of summer gave us too much rain – too much for a farmer trying to grow crops and too much for families wanting to head to the pool regularly – we were happy to have a few drier days.  I must say these late summer dry days stretched a bit longer than suited the farmers, but then the weather is always a topic of discussion and critique amongst them.

Indeed, this was an unusually cool, wet summer for the southeast, and I enjoyed it.  Had it been sweltering and dry, I probably would have lost my mind.  What with all the brown recluse spiders infesting my cottage, the main farmhouse requiring some remodeling, my husband’s business not slowing down as it usually does midsummer, and working on launching this blog – a heat wave would have done me in.

Formerly – as in life before marriage to a farmer – I would not have noticed the weather and any affect it had on my goings on.  As a middle class-grocery shopping-air conditioned human, tracking the weather was an occasional wardrobe decision consideration, but nothing more.

bridge to agriculture 1

When it comes to modern food agriculture, many of us can feel distanced from the source and find ourselves looking for a way to reconnect. My reconnection started with a good looking man.
Nice start, but I think concern over my dietary needs would have been a lot simpler bridge to agriculture. 😉

In fact, nothing more characterizes my basic consideration of all things agricultural…formerly.  The farms were pretty to drive by, but nothing more.  The photos of rugged farmers and cowboys were handsome and nostalgic, but nothing more.  The produce prices were a little high – late frost dates may have had an 8 second blurb on the news – but nothing more.

Then my husband walked into the church I attended.  I felt him walk in.  I was exultant.

“He is the one,” my 20-something soul hollered silently.

Yes, we holler (a shout with a drawl) in the South in church – some of us loudly – some of us silently.  It all depends on your raisin’s.  It’s not very romantic sounding, but that’s how it was when the farmer came along.

We married less than a year later, and I was tossed into the world of nothing more.

LOL. Bless my naïve little heart.

Imagine my surprise when I began married life as a 21st century farm bride – the surprise of finding out God asked Mike Rowe and Tyler Perry to write my script. 

Think: Dirty Jobs meets Madea (and her memorable ways of making what really matters in life quite plain).

Word on my street is that Rowe and Perry work well together, but that’s a 20/20 hindsight observation in 2013.  This wasn’t so clear when I was learning bovine biology firsthand – first forearm – never mind.

It especially wasn’t clear when the cows liked to move to the subdivision next door at night.  Black cows are hard to see at night.

And, it was quite unclear, though ever hospitable, when I was meeting the members of my agriculture industry and trying to understand what they were saying.  Simple vocabulary memorization doesn’t cut it when you want to converse knowledgably and fit in.

But the farmers were always kind and patient.

I love these men and women.  I have grown to love them in a way only possible to an adult outsider who was patiently and respectfully integrated into her new culture by its natives.  I was a wobbly-legged bride when I showed up at my ag-educated husband’s side.  I wanted a quality life in this new world, and they didn’t laugh at me.  Instead they answered questions and fielded my enthusiasm like good parents handle their little one’s zest for learning.

Believe me, I was exuberant – probably to the point of annoying – but the farmers never said a word.  And now I feel very grown up after almost a decade of immersion with them.  I’m feeling the “us factor” about this agricultural world.  I appreciate it deeply, and I’d like to share it.

bridge to agriculture 2

My farmer rebuilt this bridge in 2009 on the same foundation his grandfather first laid.

See, our farmers are not like the rest of us, and yet they are quite like us, really.  Simply put, I think their primary distinction is that they haven’t moved on from what the majority of the world has done for a living for…well, forever.  They have somehow figured out how to keep doing this ancient job in a modern world.

Often they farm and work an additional job, too.  And then there’s this fun saying, “Behind every successful farmer is a wife who works in town.”  LOL

After almost a decade of immersing myself in agriculture, I can say farmers are one of our best and brightest people groups on the planet.  They are not our assumptions, nor our food angst, nor our nostalgic daydreams.

They are more and better and newer.

So, before I spend another decade soaking up this world of agriculture, living in a beautifully nostalgic place, accepting tight financial margins, bolstering courage to feed the world on barely 2% of the shoulders and backs available, and keeping it all to myself – I had better start a blog and start writing all this down.

Because I want to remember.*

Because I wish our farming ancestors had kept a journal for us.

Because I know our peers and our successors – on this plot of ground and on farms great & small everywhere – will appreciate a few notes of encouragement.

Because you are curious and you are welcome here.

Because I married an endangered species of sorts and documentation is needed here.

It’s my contribution to conservation…probably more of my sanity than his species.

Because I think farmers, by nature of the skill sets and temperaments most conducive to coaxing food from dirt, do not tend to try to wax eloquent online.

bridge to agriculture 3

A blog, a bridge. Same difference.
To knowledge, friendship, good food, shorter blog posts, and well, in this case, literally the barn. 😉

So before I forget what it was like to live formerly, I’ll journal here, and hope to create and maintain a bridge for memories, information and good conversation.

…hoping you’ll click over and enjoy a visit with your farmers.

…hoping future farmers will find encouragement and perspective here.

…hoping I’ll always remember the depth and joy this life has offered me.

Without further ado,

Welcome to Beef & Sweet Tea – a blog about a medium size 5th generation cattle farm in the Southeastern United States.

It’s a pleasure to meet you.
Emily Grace

*Reasons for farmers to blog:  This story is all mine, but my reasons are adapted from a lovely post by Judi over at FarmNWife.  I read her Five Reasons Why Farmers Should Blog  several months ago, and I’ve enjoyed letting Judi’s thoughts sink in and propel me to blog.

Judi helps farmers get their blogs going.  If you are a farmer or anyone wanting to start a blog, Judi offers wonderful resources – all in one easy to navigate blog, FarmNWife.

62 Responses to “A Bridge Back. A Way Forward.”

  1. katie

    I am beyond tickled pink! This is the perfect beginning post. I love the reference to wobbly-legged wife. I too felt like a wobbly legged calf at the beginning of this year. I think my saving grace has been my ability to cook – cook for my farmer and cook for all his men. It was a way to contribute to this foreign world. I’ve come along way and somedays I know the difference between a Heifer and a Cow 😉

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    • Emily Grace

      Thank you, Katie! I’m glad wobbly-legged rang true with you, too – that tells me I’m more normal than I think I am…since you know my normal and live a close parallel! You’re just too cool. Thanks for reading!

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    • Emily Grace

      Thank you, Judi! And, you are welcome…just giving credit where it’s due, and I most certainly have needed and enjoyed your hard work encouraging and teaching about farm blogging.

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      Reply
  2. countrylinked

    What a wonderful way to start your blogging adventure! Very well put. You have a great “whit” about you and a beautiful eye when it comes to photography. Please continue to write your thoughts and words down for all of us to read.
    Laurie

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  3. Carolyn Bryant

    Emily, your beautiful writing and photos clearly speak to the past, present, and future of farm families everywhere. Farm life conjures up heartfelt stories to tell others. I look forward to reading many more of them. Carolyn

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  4. Amy Toothaker

    I’m one of the Taylor cousins and loved seeing our family farm during the reunion. I’m so excited about your blog! It will be fun to keep up with you and see what happens on the farm. This is great!

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  5. Susan Cooper

    Utterly delightful! And so lovingly literate. I see nothing but success on your horizon…can’t wait for the next post.

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    • Emily Grace

      Thank you, Susan! I appreciate your vote of confidence!

      In other news, I am remodeling our kitchen and have had you and your under-cabinet-fridges on my mind. I need to shoot a quick email over and see how you have liked those long term, because I like the style and space you developed in your kitchen by doing that. I may just do the same!

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  6. Lisa

    I absolutely love this post. Thank you for writing it. It’s fun to keep checking out things here & there on your blog. 🙂

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  7. lifecorked

    Hey Emily!

    I’m so excited we “found” each other. While we might write about different topics, it’s all about life and I love that! I look forward to learning more about the farming world – the closest I get to farming or ranching is my little organic garden and my “small” obsession with cowboy boots! Happy to “meet” you!

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    • Emily Grace

      Thanks for reading, Chenoa! Believe it or not, your little garden is definitely farming – tiny farming – in my book, and it gives you similar experiences to larger farming operations: the frustrations of nature, patience, the work, the stress of deciding how to solve problems you wish would crawl away, etc. I’m a big fan of gardening and how it teaches us so much about life and agriculture. And, of course, the boots totally count!!

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  8. Amber Fox Rugan

    Merry Christmas! just stopping in from Christmas in the country. this is a jewel of a post for a suburban girl turned farm wife..ten years now. I am off to ponder all you beautifully penned.

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  9. Brandi

    I love this. Written perfectly! 🙂 I’m not a farm wife yet, but will be. It was quite a change when I started dating my boyfriend 3 years ago. Growing up we had a small farm, baled hay, and had a handful of animals. His family farms 5600+ acres of corn & beans and owns 10 hog buildings (they are part of a farm partnership). Talk about a change! I look forward to continuing to read your blog!
    Brandi
    http://lipstickandtractors.wordpress.com

    PS: I love you banner or whatever you call it. It’s perfect.

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    • Emily Grace

      Hi Brandi! Thanks for stopping by!

      Yes, joining your man in ag is a big change! I’m glad I’ve found you via Christmas in the Country, and I look forward to following along, too!

      Thanks!
      Emily Grace

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  10. Lynda

    Emily Grace,

    Thank you so much for the visit today. I love your introduction here and your writing style. Wonderful! I look forward to reading more, and maybe learning a bit too. If you don’t mind a question from time to time. 🙂

    Lynda
    On the Farmlet

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  11. You know, honesty is the best policy – making a blog week of National Agriculture Day | Beef and Sweet Tea

    […] This struggle to keep agriculture in public view and value is not new.  I think it’s easy for me to overlook how long the gap between farm and plate has been addressed and instead, focus too much on my age and stage in ag. Now that I’ve learned more about National Ag Day I’m feeling more connected with farming across decades, not just my decade in ag.  I’m glad to see what good work has been done and will be done.  I’m appreciative of this new perspective and I’m glad to be a part of bridging that gap. […]

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  12. Imen McDonnell (@ModernFarmette)

    I love the idea of keeping the farm journal……because those that were here before us did not. So true. Last year, when my mother in law was ill but didn’t know it yet…she began having long conversations with me about things. stories, rituals that occurred on the farm ages and ages ago….it’s like she was going through her whole memory of life on the farm that she too married into, but that she also eventually quit her teaching job and became fully immersed into….anyway, my point is that I wish I had taken notes on those beautiful, touching, incredible stories. I only have my memory.
    Happy to have found you via your comment on my blog! Look forward to reading along.
    Imen xx

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    • Emily Grace

      Hi Imen. Thanks for stopping by.

      Yes, a 100 year old farm journal would thrill my soul, but the value of story is undeniable. My husband’s family culture is full of story – I have learned more of his family history than my own simply because of the quality and volume of the stories his people tell. If you ever put your memories to paper, they’d be welcomed by this Farmette reader.

      Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I admire your work and admit – your visit just made my entire blog career, short as it may be, incredibly more satisfying than before. 🙂

      Best,
      Emily Grace

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  13. a Tom Gray PSA – tornado season | Beef and Sweet Tea

    […] …but not my Farmer…because he has formidable courage and a strong sense of community service, he shows up to first respond if needed.  Some day I’ll post for you on how farmers add community service to their load – it’s amazing how they give back and how they’re known for this generosity and participation as a species.  […]

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  14. basics

    Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this website.

    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s tough to get that “perfect balance” between user
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    • Emily Grace

      Thanks, Basics.

      I really studied several templates to decide, but this one was the one I liked most from the very beginning. It’s simple and engaging.

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Emily Grace

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  15. Joana_JW

    Sound beautiful and nothing less then the fresh breathe of rain 🙂 You weave the beauty with words in a fantastic way and that bridge is lovely. This is mesmerizing!

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    • Emily Grace

      Thanks, Inese. I enjoy that post – which may be strange to say about my own writing, but I go back and read it when I need to remind myself of why I am blogging and why this is important to my family and maybe others, too.

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      Reply
  16. fashionaire101

    hey there! im new here on word press and it would be really great if you could check out my blog, leave a comment, or even follow me! 🙂 Thank You! ❤

    Like

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