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.
When 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 www.youtube.com/agsalesman.