I am thankful for my Grandpa Rogers and the legacy he left behind. I am especially grateful for his life and work this week as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Grandpa was a family farmer in the foothills of eastern Kentucky. He and my Granny reared my mother and her nine brothers and sisters on a family farm. It was hard work for not much pay, but he was respected by all who knew him as an honest man and earnest worker. His farm is long gone, but his legacy remains and reminds me why the family farmer is so important not only to the past and its nostalgia but also to the future of our country and its food supply.
Grandpa’s major cash crop was tobacco, but he raised pigs, chickens, and cows, too. My grandparents had a large garden and an apple orchard, and my Granny put up all kinds of vegetables and fruits. She even canned the best sausage I’ve ever tasted. She did all of this without indoor plumbing. I can remember being entertained by churning butter with a hand-cranked churn. Fried apple pies and biscuits always graced her table, and the grandchildren managed to deplete the stock during furtive forays into the dining room between dinner and supper.
I didn’t appreciate my grandfather’s legacy fully until I started learning about our agricultural and food productions systems. It’s easy for most of us to go into a grocery store and fill our carts with an impressive array of items without ever considering their origin or how far they traveled to reach the store. There’s a huge difference between tomatoes fresh off the vine and those plasticine-like numbers in the produce section at Wal-Mart. A plastic container of blackberries may look nice on the shelf, but it will never match the experience of picking berries amidst the brambles and eating your fill in the process. Fresh, raw milk is something most Americans no longer have access to, and milk in a glass bottle from a local dairy is a rare treat.
My mothers’ family did without a lot of the “niceties” that townspeople took for granted. They made up for it in self-reliance, and understanding of and appreciation for the land and all of God’s creation, and a commitment to a way of life that is fast passing from the American landscape. I wish I had the kind of practical knowledge about farming, gardening, and putting up food that my Grandpa and Granny had. My husband and I are trying to become more self-reliant and aware of the sources of our food. We’re learning to garden, to can, and to choose local foods whenever possible.
America is in a strange place right now. For the first time our farmers do not produce enough fruits and vegetables to meet the needs of our people. Fewer family farms are in operation every year. It’s risky business, and competition is fierce. It takes a special person to be a farmer.
As you gather around your table this Thursday, be sure to give thanks for the people who planted, grew, and harvested your food. I know I will. I’ll also offer a prayer of thanks for my Grandpa Rogers’ legacy–for the strong hands that worked the land and then folded in prayer to give God thanks for it.
Click here to view a fine short film from Bread for the World about the current plight of small farmers. Please take the time to watch it. It may just change the way you look at your food and where it comes from.