Reminiscing about the “Good Old Days”

Little red wagonMy wife, Janice, and I have been looking through family photos and gathering material to make a historical video for our grandson Zach’s high school graduation present. Seeing all of these old pictures made me reminisce about my farming career.

Growing up, I have fond memories playing with one of those little red wagons. I also remember spending my fair share of time doing chores. Multi-generations were involved on the farm, and I remember learning from my grandfather Jake. Mom had a chicken house full of laying hens that earned grocery money for our growing family that included seven kids. Gathering eggs in a wire basket was something we all learned at an early age!

Gathering Eggs

Gathering Eggs

In addition to fresh eggs, we drank milk from our cows. We also ate home-raised chickens, beef from our own cattle and pork from our hogs. That’s the way it was done.

Farming required lots of manual labor from lots of family members because we didn’t have modern technology! Plowing the ground black was somewhat a source of pride as you were considered doing a bad job of farming if there was a corn stalk showing after you plowed! We spread lots of manure, usually close to the barns because it took too much time with slow tractors to haul it to fields that were further away. No manure management plans were written. We needed lots and lots of tillage to control weeds because there weren’t herbicides and pesticides.

Sounds great… right? Not so!

PlanterDirtEven though we used very few chemicals, the wildlife populations were scarce on our farm compared to now. We had more fox and jack rabbits, but I can only remember one deer as a kid.

I also remember seeing so much soil erosion, and black dirt filled the air when the wind blew. Soil filled the ditches, which needed to be cleaned. Each spring we’d have to plow the dirt “drifts” away from the fence rows, and we’d have to fill in gullies that washed through the fields. Yields were pitiful compared to today, too!

Do we want to talk about livestock? The weather was harsh and housing conditions were crude by today’s standards, so I don’t think we even need to go there!

1stVoAgI will say, however, that we thought we were doing a great job of raising food back then. Each year we implemented new ideas, and we got better! Agriculture has continued to evolve. Fast forward to today, and we’re even better. Of course, we’re not perfect but we are better than we were 50 years ago. And you can bet that every year we will continue to get better and better at raising food!

I loved growing up on the farm, but I wouldn’t go back to “the good old days.” We produce much more output (food), with much less input (herbicide, pesticides, erosion). There’s no doubt in my mind that farmers today are doing a much better job of taking care of the environment, our soil, and our water. After all, I’ve “lived” farming for 50-plus years!