Living in Chicago, many people are surprised to learn that I am a born and raised farm kid. I grew up in rural Michigan on a small sheep farm. Farm and music were the way of life for my family.
My mom grew up on what I would deem a “real” farm. This is thousands of acres and a full time operation. I spent a ton of time there growing up. It’s been passed down generation to generation, still a thriving and an even larger operation today.
I’m grateful for my childhood in farm culture. I spent my days barefoot in the dirt, I picked raspberries in the fields and I rode horses bareback with my cousins.
I drove tractors, spent summer Saturdays in the hay mow stacking bales and playing baseball on cow pastures on another farm down the lane.
I was up a 5am each day to feed the lambs. I remember laying in the snow petting my dog in the dark, watching them as they ate.
I put the lambs in the barn at night so they wouldn’t get eaten by coyotes. Once, I even got to miss a whole morning of school because I helped one of my ewes, Glory, give birth.
If I wanted a snack in the summer, I would go pick a cucumber. My siblings and I were competitive in 4-H and I learned a lot about respecting animals - what is known today as ethical farming.
If I didn’t do my chores, very simply, “The lambs will die.” I can hear my mom saying this as I type.
I learned deep responsibility because I was entrusted with it from an early age.
Now as a “city slicker”, I feel the juxtaposition of the country and city cultures.
I see kids riding the train to school as middle schoolers and having all kinds of world class art at their daily fingertips. They have a street and world sense that I cultivated upon my arrival as a twenty-something.
I witness kids not knowing what goes into the food they see and eat from Whole Foods. This was something that’s been like breathing to me since I was born.
Something I witness on a deep level is the misunderstanding between these two ways of living.
For some reason, it’s gotten political and it’s been heightened with the pandemic.
I notice a lot of people in my city making big assumptions about rural communities.
There is a common belief that all farmers are super far right on the political spectrum. There is a belief that people in rural communities are uneducated. And in general, I notice a sense of disrespect between the two walks of life.
As someone who embodies both, today I am sharing what I call Lessons from a Farm Kid. This is a small collection of truths and values that I got to learn from a very young age not despite where I grew up and how, but because of it.
May these shed light on the wonderful foundation I received, expand your perspective and honor farm culture.
Whole Foods would be empty without the amazing humans who till the earth. These people and this way of living is equally valid, valuable and deserves to be taken out of the assumption box.
We are connected to the earth.
Growing food, co-existing with animals and relying on the earth to meet you halfway as a farmer cultivates the deep truth that we humans are not separate from the earth.
We humans really have little say in the matter.
It's giving and receiving. Taking good care of the earth, our home and habitat, matters.
As a farm kid, I knew from a young age this was just truth.
If you don’t feed it, it dies.
Harkening back to my mother’s words, a major lesson and value on a farm is exactly this: If you don’t feed it, it dies.
There’s no sugar coating it. I once forgot to water my lambs (a phrase that means to give fresh water) in the middle of a 100+ degree day. I had also forgotten to let them out of the barn. I think I was about 11 at the time.
I have never run so fast in my life as I did once I realized at evening chore time. They very well could have died and it would have been on me.
As a farm kid, I was entrusted with responsibility and the very real truth that if you don’t feed it, it dies.
This applies to every single thing in life - animals, plants, dreams, relationships, really anything.
No effort, no results.
Manual labor is a normal day to day activity on a farm. I remember carrying five gallon pails of water at an eight year old and somehow lifting them over the fence by myself. I did this multiple times a day.
This is something I would now consider a workout! And this was just a daily experience, it wasn’t anything compared to baling day or mucking out stalls.
As a farm kid, any result required work put in on the front end. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I received this gift.
I put skin in the game, sweat, and dirt under my fingers in order to produce a result. This is the farm kid work ethic. Something, to be honest, is not a given.
I learned the law of cause and effect. I cultivated a strong work ethic and this pours into every single thing I do. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, pulling up my bootstraps or a long day of effort. It serves me well.
To plant something new, you’ve got to create space for it to grow.
If there is no plot of land with open soil, there is no way something new will grow. Not only is this true literally, it’s a lesson that applies to all areas of life.
If my schedule is jam packed full, there is no room for anything new. No miracles can appear or new ideas can flourish.
In order to welcome something new, I first need to create space for it.
This is a farm value through and through.
Rain is a good thing.
Lots of people complain about rain. I don’t. I quite enjoy it actually.
Why? It’s a good thing.
It’s a cleansing, a clearing, a nourishing and when it’s over, what remains is solid and true.
In life, the rainy days give way to the biggest sunshine. The darkest clouds catapult the most light.
Rain is a good thing. And again, it’s our connection with Mother Earth. She gifts us all with a bath and nourishment.
It’s a good thing.
No one is coming to save you.
There were so many times in my childhood that I got into a pickle that I needed to figure out. And, not just figure it out, I needed to figure it out fast.
I got caught miles away from home with no gas and no phone. Yes, this is the era of no phones as a kid! (So grateful)
Once our sheep got out and were running toward a busy road, I problem solved in real time.
I remember a bull getting loose at the fair and coming across it on accident, yes, I needed to figure that out fast!
No one was coming to save me. It was up to me to figure it out.
I learned real time problem solving and real time autonomy over and over. I also learned the true differences between emergencies and things that could be simmered.
Morning is the best time of day.
My Nana used to say, “Morning is the best time of day. The whole day is ahead of you.”
I couldn’t agree more. Up before the sun, taking good care of animals and plants, nourishing the earth and getting it all done first.
Responsibilities first. Needle movers first. Paint on the blank canvas and set the tone for the day.
Farm culture taught me priorities.
Good things take time.
Finally, the last of this small collection of lessons, good things take time.
When I plant something, it doesn’t come up five minutes later. It doesn’t come up five days later. It doesn’t even come up five weeks later!
Patience is a virtue because it’s required. From planting to harvest there is time. And anything good, does indeed take time to grow.
In our Amazon prime culture, this is one of the values I most seek to impart to my students. Good things take time.
It’s a lesson I remind myself of often too.
I’m proud to be a farm kid.
Thank you to my childhood, my family and my farm roots for my foundation, my values and these lessons that continue to help me be the person I want to be.
Not despite where and how I grew up, but because of it.
Which lesson from a farm kid resonates with you the most?
Do you experience the tension between city dwellers and those who live in the country?
Did anything in this blog shift your perspective on the assumptions that exist around this?
What would it be like to start embodying one of these lessons from farm culture today?
Through my work as a teacher, coach and yoga leader, I help my clients embody values and practices that will support them in living their truest life.
On July 28th I am hosting a free masterclass for artists called “Broke to Bounty”. This is for any artist who has struggled with financial or energetic nourishment and is ready for a shift! Here is the link to register.
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I’m sending you into your day with the wisdom of the earth, the wisdom of farm culture and perhaps a new way to live this one life that you’ve got.
In love, equity and unwavering foundations,