There are things to be said for knowing a small area of the world really well. As farmers, we tend to pride ourselves on knowing every spring and sand knoll in a field and what conditions make it show up in the crops or pasture. We know where the tile lines and water lines are buried and sometimes even how deep. Or, at least we think we know until we start digging and either tear into it early or spend a lot of time slowly digging toward something that was much deeper than we thought. There is also much to be gained by knowing about a broad area of the world.
Emily and I had quite a few opportunities growing up, through 4-H and in college, to travel and learn about the cultures and agricultural practices outside of our region and state. We have always felt that those experiences were important to bring new ideas to our farm and to understand how and why things are done elsewhere. We decided that our children would get to have even more opportunities than us to travel and learn about the world. An idea we stumbled into was taking our kids on a one-on-one trip of their choosing for their 7th, 14th and 21st birthdays.
Emily had the opportunity to attend an agricultural meeting in Washington, D.C., around our oldest son’s, Erik’s, 7th birthday so she brought him with, and they stayed after the conference to see the sights which started a 7th birthday tradition. Jonnie came to California with me to visit my brother Steve for his 7th birthday and saw huge trees, valleys and cliffs. Hannah traveled to Oregon with Emily, and they stayed with our friends on their dairy farm which she found out was quite different from ours. They irrigated from a river that was alternately fresh and salty and had different seasons from us. The highlight of the trip was riding horses by the ocean.
Erik turned 14 this year, and after hearing about how amazing Yosemite National Park was from his younger brother, he wanted to go rock climbing there and see the huge redwoods of Muir Woods. We planned the trip for November thinking we’d be done with all the fieldwork and have cattle home from summer pastures. Turned out that fall stretched on and was nice for a bit longer than expected, and we were still doing the last crop of hay right up to the night before our flight and the cattle were still on pasture. Erik usually isn’t in a huge hurry to finish hay. The longer hay goes on, the more time in a tractor listening to music and sipping Dr. Pepper he gets, and the less school work he gets bothered to complete. This time he was in a rush to get done.
I’m writing this on our way back to Minnesota. We had an amazing time seeing thousands of acres of trees, both agricultural and natural. Some were planted in neat rows and others were hundreds of years old and as many feet tall, growing however nature saw fit along creeks and rivers. We drove by dairy farms, and Erik learned about why they don’t have the same types of facilities as us, thanks to the far more agreeable climate and year-round cropping. Once we got to Yosemite Valley, we climbed and hiked and took in the sights of the immense cliffs. We, of course, went a few rope lengths up to get even better views and a great experience in team work and climbing gear use.
Our plane is about to board, so I better get my beef jerky shoved in my bag and headphones ready to sit for a few hours watching a movie or two. Until next time, keep living the dream and don’t forget to look at how others are living theirs. You might be able to borrow a few good ideas from them.
Tim Zweber farms with his wife Emily, their three children and his parents Jon and Lisa by Elko, Minnesota.