Last Sunday was a big day, beginning with our local church service and ending with The Big Game. (The Super Bowl showcased good defense, and I like defense. I also enjoyed watching many of the TV commercials. While none of them quite struck an emotional cord nationwide like last year’s God Made a Farmer spot, America’s farmers and ranchers were well represented on a regional level by the Blythe family of Kansas in Begins with a Farmer – A Mother’s Love.

Farming and ranching is certainly a labor of love. It’s also a cyclical business:  Good prices, bad prices. Good weather, bad weather. The Polar Vortex and seasonably cold temperatures have created a few more challenges for Midwest farmers, especially livestock producers, this season.

JimFisher_CattlemanQuoteFarmers and ranchers in the West are plagued with problems of their own as zero rain fell in many areas throughout the entire month of January, which is typically California’s wettest month of the year. The drought in southern California is turning into one of the worst in history. No wonder my friend Celeste Settrini on Sunday spearheaded the event, Harvesting Faith, a day of reflection, prayer and fasting.

During our local church service on Sunday, we lifted up the West in prayer and asked God to bring rain to drought-stricken areas. That’s why it seemed, at first, to be complete irony when Pastor Scott delivered a sermon about job happiness. He reminded us that Adam and Eve’s lives in the Garden of Eden were meant to be joyful. Before the serpent and apple, they were happy taking care of God’s creations.

Similarly, sin has caused all of difficulties. Thinking of difficulties makes me think of farming. (Yes, my mind tends to wander during sermons!) Through all of the hardships and risk, there are still folks like me who enjoy farming. I love watching small pigs when they first come into my hog barns. They scuffle and jockey for position, making a new pecking order. I watch for a sick pig, treat it with the right medicine because “it’s the right thing to do,” and am happy when it makes a full recovery. I enjoy my pigs, even watching Houdini, who jumps out of her pen every day.

I love smells in the spring like freshly planted ground and even the aroma of the natural fertilizer my pigs make, which gets recycled back into the ground to grow feed the pigs will eat and then promptly turn back into natural fertilizer again.

I love watching crops grow from the small seeds I plant in the ground. I wonder how such a tender little plant has the power to break through a crusted soil after a hard rain. Last summer I was amazed how six-foot-tall corn could stand back up after getting pounded by a heavy wind that beat it flat to the ground.

I also enjoy watching wildlife. I see deer play in the field as I combine. Bald eagles have made a great come back, and I enjoy watching them circle overhead as I work in the field and wonder if my little dog, Tucker, is safe outside the tractor.

I have watched baby colts be born after what seemed like an eternity. I have watched my young son’s pet goat get killed by the neighbor’s dog and felt my heart break by from his anguish. But I also experienced the joy of watching my kids grow up to understand how and why we farm; they learned to understand the cycles of life and the meaning of hard work. I enjoy my grandkids’ long stays on the farm where they, too, enjoy playing with livestock.

I have operated new, big machinery, when times were good. I have farmed with junk machinery discarded by other farmers. And I must admit, I’ve been happier to get my farming done with the old junk than I was with new machinery during good times. Tough times can make you appreciate what you have gone through. Sometimes the toughest lessons are the best ones to learn!

While many other occupations can be very fulfilling, I’m glad to be a farmer. The job of growing food, fuel and fiber just takes me back to thinking of the Bible, creation and that Garden of Eden. Yes, there’s still joy in living!