By now, you may have seen the video “God Made a Farmer” which ran as an during the Super Bowl yesterday. Dodge did a wonderful job resurrecting Paul Harvey’s 1978 essay against the backdrop of, at least some, pictures of modern farming practices, people, and culture. The video exudes a warm fuzzy feeling, a feeling of longing for the kind of life described; a life of struggle and reward; a God ordained task for the greater good. There are good things here, but I also have a few issues.
There is nothing wrong with raising the status of farmers, pointing out how long and hard they work, pointing out the fact they are people who care for the environment,for the land, and livestock they have under their care. These things are all true, but, I think the underlying life-style feel of the piece is misleading. I was a farmer once, and I, like Paul Harvey’s mythical creation, was out in the barn with calving cows and lambing ewes at some pretty crazy hours of the night. I was there for two reasons, the first of which was likely a financial one, with the love of the animal, the warm fuzzy bit, coming up a close second, depending on the night. If the lamb or calf, or in the worst case scenario, the ewe or the cow, died, because I decided to stay in bed, warm, with my equally work worn wife, there would be difficulty paying off the hundreds of thousands of dollars I (we) had borrowed to follow the calling God gave me to farm. A lot of what farmers do comes down to simple economics.
Harvey puts God into the mix as the creator, on the eighth day, of the farmer. I won’t argue with poetic license or the idea that God’s creative work might not have ended on the seventh day. I do like the concept of God creating a farmer. Doesn’t God do that every time someone is “called” to a particular task? In Reformed circles, we would have no issue with the idea that someone is called to the ministry, and in theory we do understand our occupations, our life work, as callings, but we often don’t treat them that way. A calling recognizes that the supervisor, or foreman, is not actually the higher power to which we answer, we are working for God. In God’s kingdom each one of us needs to find the place to which God is calling us. Farmers are called, created, to farm.
I guess the pieces of this video that sort of bother me are the things that are not said. I can’t disagree with much of the content. Most of the farmers I know, and work with, do a lot of the things that Harvey puts out there (I’m not sure about the splint on the meadow lark’s leg though). I didn’t hear about the heartache of sending a crop to market knowing it wasn’t going to bring in enough to cover the input costs. I didn’t hear any mention of the child who didn’t make it through grade school because of a farm accident. I missed the mention of the marital tension that comes when there is no money for new windows in the house, when kids need to have less because the farm comes first. No mention is made of the opportunities kids miss both at school and in the community because their labour is needed to keep the farm running. Its not all warm and fuzzy. He really doesn’t mention the strain the payments on a new Dodge truck will make on farm finances or the fact that owning one doesn’t make you a farmer.
Harvey’s piece, though, touches on a lot of the things that makes the call to farm a wonderful calling. I was called to farm, a calling which I thought would be for a lifetime. Sometimes, I still miss it.