Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thanksgiving on the Farm

Thanksgiving on the Farm - PhotoIt is truly hard to believe that winter is practically here and Thanksgiving upon us once again. Sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, there is so much to be thankful for. By Thanksgiving, our corn has been chopped and all of the hay has been baled, ensuring that our livestock will be well fed during the coming winter months. By Thanksgiving, the last of our cows and calves have been hauled home from the pasture in the “mountains.” The surprise winter snow that might have rushed us in getting the cattle out is now just a memory. The cellar shelves will be full of the produce that was canned from the garden and the deep freezer equally full of the beef that we had butchered over the summer. The woodshed will be (almost) full of cut wood to keep us warm.

But more than anything, I am so thankful that I was born into this farm life. I am extremely proud of the fact that I am a fourth generation farmer, and I am thankful that a farming heritage is something that I inherited from not just one parent, but from two. I am so grateful that my parents have always encouraged me to be involved with the farm. Growing up, it might have sometimes been by force, but I can’t imagine having been raised anywhere else.

As farmers, it seems like we see more than our fair share of struggles and challenges, but God has given us all so much to be thankful for. Sometimes, we just have to slow down a little to see His many blessings. So, as you sit down to roasted turkey and pumpkin pie, take a moment to think of all the wonderful ways God has blessed you and your farm.

As Psalm 95:2-3 says, “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods.”

Have a truly blessed Thanksgiving!

Lucky Man

By Jeff VanderWerff

On Sunday, the upper Midwest saw some of the most severe storms we’ve ever seen this late in the year. While the damage was nothing like what the folks in places like Illinois saw, it was still significant around our area in Michigan, and my family was affected.

On Monday morning, I arrived at the “main farm,” where my grandparents live, and saw for myself what had happened: one post frame building destroyed, debris around the yard and no power. We spent most of the morning and afternoon removing building pieces so we could get equipment out, hooking up generators, and trying to get things up and running again. When the power went out, we’d had the grain dryers running, so on Monday we still had thousands of bushels of wet corn in trucks and bins that would start molding quickly if we couldn’t get it dried, and fast. As I worked around throughout the day, one thought kept creeping into my head:

I’m a lucky man.

My family is safe. My farm buildings and home are (for the most part) still standing. I didn’t lose any equipment. Compared to many farm friends south of me, I’m extremely lucky.

Lucky Man - Photo 1When I took to social media with pictures and stories, it wasn’t about looking for pity or a “hey, look at how bad this is” moment. I’ve decided that I’m going to share my farming life with the world via social media, and this was part of that. The good, the bad, everything.

Then, something even more humbling than I can put into words started happening.

First, it was text messages.

Then, the Facebook postings.

Finally, the phone calls.

Other farmers and ranchers all over the country were reaching out, contacting me, wondering how we were doing, how bad the damage was and asking if there was anything they could do to help out.

Then it struck me.

Compared to having a town leveled or losing half your cattle in a blizzard or having an entire crop lost to flooding, this was a minor inconvenience. And these people, these wonderful friends, many of whom I know only on Facebook and Twitter, were asking if we were OK and telling me they were praying for us.

I was beyond words.

And then, it hit me:

This is farming. This is what I do. And this – and they – are why I do it.

I am truly, a very lucky man.


Jeff VanderWerff is a 4th generation farmer from Sparta, Mich. and a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. Learn more about his family farm at

A Farmer’s Sacrifice

By Glen Cope, Former AFBF YF&R Chair

Three Generations

When I was a young man, my father and I took our old farm truck to visit one of our relatives. He was an old man who had been a farmer his whole life, and my father liked to stop in from time to time to check up on him. The old man always did most of the talking which was fine by me. I loved to listen to his stories of days gone by.

It was hot the day we visited, very much like the day he recollected for us. He told of being a young boy when his father, his brother and he were hoeing corn in a field next to the dirt road where he lived.

He recalled that it was a Saturday afternoon in the 1930s, and like most farming of those days, much of the work in the fields was done by hand. While they were working, neighbors began to pass by one by one on their way to the local one-room schoolhouse for a community picnic.

He and his family were planning to attend the event, but his father seemed to be in no hurry to leave their work to go to what he considered something less important than the task at hand.

The two boys, however, were eager to quit for the day and join their friends for the activities and the good food that would be awaiting them. After listening to his boys complain, their father calmly stated, “Boys, those folks may beat us to the picnic but they won’t beat us out of bed of a morning.”

I laughed as his father’s words reminded me of my own father, who is a workaholic in his own right and always prioritizes tending to the cattle and improving the condition of the farm before any recreational activity.

This is the mantra of all farmers. Our responsibilities are centered on making sure things are taken care of on the farm before anything else is attended to. Livestock require adequate feed and forage as well as clean water. Cows that are calving need to be checked regularly to prevent potential calving problems.

Fences must be maintained to prevent livestock from getting into the hayfield. Weeds and pests must be reduced as much as possible to maximize yields for the crops.

I am six foot, five inches tall, so when I started the ninth grade, the high school basketball coach was persistent in trying to recruit me for the sport. I attended a very small school, so a boy of my stature was a coveted prize for the basketball team, though my skills were more developed in the realm of farm work than handling a basketball.

When I finally had the blessing of my parents to join the team, my father explained to me that he would not be able to attend many of my games because duties on the farm came first. So at my games, many times the seat next to my mother was empty. Yet, I appreciated and respected his sacrifice because I knew he wanted to be there.

This is the sacrifice many farmers must make in order to make a living on the land as well as to feed a growing nation. The spring-time planting season requires long hours to get the seeds in the ground before a rain that would make field conditions too muddy. The cows on a dairy farm must be milked twice a day regardless of inclement weather, children’s school activities or even the farmer’s desire for a day off.

Since I’ve returned to our family farm and have a son involved in school activities, I now understand how my father felt missing out on my activities because of the requirements of the farm.

My sweet wife has been understanding on more than one occasion when we would have to postpone our anniversary dinner date because hay needed to be baled and put away safely in the barn before the rain.

Now, I’m not complaining. I chose this life and am content to live with the restrictions that are a part of the lives of all farmers. I am, however, grateful for all my fellow farmers and their spouses and children who, without complaint, continue to sacrifice every day on behalf of all Americans who depend on them to provide sustenance and the necessity of food and fiber.