It's the time of year when the days are growing shorter, the nights are becoming longer, and Americans are spending more and more of their time indoors, participating in their favorite pleasure-inducing activity.      
    I am talking about stuffing ourselves silly with food, of course.       
    I'm going to go out on a limb here and assert that food is an important part of most peoples’ lives. The fact that food is a bit too important for many of us is fairly self-evident.
    As I approach the anniversary of yet another year on this planet, I’m deeply appreciative that my wife and I continue to consume the beef we have personally raised. It feels good to maintain my lifelong connection to our land, a connection made possible by our Jersey steers who eat the grass and grain that were grown on our farm.      
  Food is both cheap and plentiful in America. We squander our eats as if there were an unlimited supply, which certainly appears to be the case. People would be more physically fit and would have a deeper appreciation for their food if they had to endure a childhood like mine.      
  There were eight kids in our family, and Mom didn't work outside the home. We farmed two quarters of land, raised a few hogs, kept a few chickens and maintained a small dairy herd. We didn't buy much at the grocery store other than coffee, flour and sugar.       
    We accomplished this by putting in a large garden each spring and butchering a steer and a couple of hogs each fall. Mom made bread, cakes and cookies from scratch, often without so much as glancing at a recipe.      
    What we couldn't raise in our garden we bought in bulk when it was in season and canned it in jars. When I was a kid, fast food meant running down into the basement and sprinting back up the stairs with a couple of jars of preserves.      
    It seemed like the stone fruit – peaches, apricots, cherries and such – always came into season when the summer was at its hottest. We would buy these fruits in wooden boxes called lugs, a name I suspect came from the fact that they were just the right size for a kid to lug to the house from the car.      
    The most scorching days at the end of summer would find Mom in the steaming kitchen, making sugar syrup, boiling jars and preparing the pears, peaches and cherries that would fill the scores of quarts that we kids would carefully carry down into the basement.      
    I recall one summer when a lug of sweet, juicy purple plums appeared in the pantry. They were so delicious that I found them irresistible. I must have snarfed down nearly a dozen plums before Mom caught me and informed me that I would pay for my gluttony.
    Mom was right. Boy was she ever.
    At some point during my early childhood, Dad purchased a single-row, horse-drawn potato planter. He hitched the steel-wheeled machine to our John Deere B and planted what seemed like a couple of acres of spuds. Our entire family spent summers hoeing those potatoes, and we kids were conscripted into digging them up in the fall. Nothing makes the humble potato taste so good as the knowledge that you watered it with your own sweat.      
    As we grew up, we learned that many of our schoolmates ate Wonder Bread and that their parents bought preserved fruit that came in steel cans. We began to beg our parents to buy Wonder Bread for us. We openly questioned the economics of raising one's own potatoes.      
    Only years later did I realize that the real wonder bread is the kind you watch rise as the yeast performs its wondrous magic. Only now do I realize that there was infinitely more value in those homegrown victuals than what could be measured in mere dollars and cents. Only now do I fully comprehend that those humble provisions did more than nourish our bodies; they nourished our sense of family and our souls.      
    Now if you'll excuse me, my wife and I have developed a sudden urge to enjoy the sweet potatoes that were recently harvested from our garden. And, I’ll grill some fresh Jersey burgers to go with them.   
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at jerry.n@dairystar.com.