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My Farm Life Chapter

Updated on April 18, 2019

Wheat field soon to be harvested

This is a wheat field about to be harvested, it looks like that it will produce plenty of wheat this season, if the entire field is the same as we see it in this photo.
This is a wheat field about to be harvested, it looks like that it will produce plenty of wheat this season, if the entire field is the same as we see it in this photo. | Source

My farm life chapter when I was young.

Welcome to my article (8) my farm life chapter

Dear readers, this is the continuation of our previous article, my farm life experience and views, so, I am lamenting about my early childhood life in the farm, which has been one of those facts of life that to most of us can happen during our life, so, whatever I am telling you here is the story of my life and nothing else. Now we can also say that no matter how negative a story could be and there are plenty of negative in my life story, there must be also some positive things that can be used from us later in life.

I believe that to give you a better picture overall, of what life was like in the farms of my native town of Genzano di Lucania when I was young, I need to tell you about many other things as well and the town itself, and then the ways of how people used to live in those times and what was happening at the time when I was young. So, let me talk about the town and the population first.

From my memory, I believe that the town of Genzano di Lucania early in the twentieth century had reached a population of about 7,000 inhabitants, in the forties when I was young the population had grown to about 8,000 and reached 8,389 in 1951 inhabitants, and this is the highest number of people on record that I know of. Even though some people believe that there were near 10,000 people living in Genzano. But, today the number of people that used to live in Genzano does not matter anymore, because in the seventies it had shrunk to only 5,500 inhabitants or there about. The reasons for this population shrinkage, it was because lots of people had to emigrate somewhere in those times. The reasons why they had to emigrate will be understood, when I explain what happened to the rural community of this town including myself. Today at the present time while I am writing this article the first time, the town of Genzano has 6200 inhabitant or there about.

My native town of Genzano is known as Genzano di Lucania in order to distinguish it from another Italian town Genzano di Roma. Anyhow this Genzano di Lucania these days has a territory of about 21,000 Hectares of land if I remember right, and about 80% of this land is arable land, and it is mostly used to grow wheat, especially durum wheat; the rest of the land is used to grow grapes vines or olive trees and other farm produce, and there are also reserves or grazing land. Anyhow, this town owes its wealth to the rural community that produces wheat, because this town is well known to produce lots of very high quality durum wheat, which the mills that make pasta rush to buy at harvest time. Now even if the mills rush to buy this durum wheat, the price of wheat is not high, so the farmers make only enough money to keep going and one has to think that it takes one year to produce and harvest a crop of wheat, so, it is not that good for the farmers; there are also other things that must be taken into consideration, as I will continue to explain while I am writing my life story.

Anyhow, as I have mentioned above, there are lots of other produce from the farms, because we used to have mixed farming, but these produce are used locally, and if some of them are sold out of the town, they are not a great deal to make any difference.

At the time when I was young there were lots of small farms in Genzano, and although the most important and the largest crop that brought in the money was durum wheat, in reality they had to practice mixed farming for their own needs, which I will try to explain how the farms were run at those times when I was young.


Ploughing the fields the old way

This is a one horse drawn plough with man constantly holding plough in the right position. In our farms we had two horses to pull the plough. With two horses we would be able to plough one acre of land in one day.
This is a one horse drawn plough with man constantly holding plough in the right position. In our farms we had two horses to pull the plough. With two horses we would be able to plough one acre of land in one day. | Source
Some types of horse drown ploughs and other earth turning device.
Some types of horse drown ploughs and other earth turning device. | Source

How the farms were run then?

Now, let me explain how these small farms in southern Italy were run until the fifties, when things started to change, because of the new farming machine that were coming out, like the tractor and other machine that were very effective in replacing manual work; now, because these machines helped the farmers run their farms with less manual workers, the people that were employed in the farms had to find other jobs. Now, this is just one explanation, but let us describe how things were done then, in order to understand the whole situation and what was happening to us young would be farmers.

When I was young during the fifties, before these farming machines became affordable to the average small farmers, all the farmers used to have mixed farming, because it was necessary to have mixed farming then for many reason, today mixed farming is practiced to a much less extend, and I will try to explain the reasons why this has happened. But to make it clear to you dear reader, I should describe the different way of how the land was (had to be) used in the old days, and how it is used today.

In the old days to till the soil people used to do it all by hand, just like what we still do today in our own small home gardens, so, they would dig the soil in very small plots with a hoe, or something like that. But on normal fields in the farms the soil was tilled by ploughing the fields with horse power or other strong animals. Therefore, there was a need for a lot of people to be fed to work the fields, and there were a lot of animals also to be fed to work the fields.

So, this need to feed so many mouths required a lot of produce and also a variety of produce, for this reason mixed farming was required, because it was the only way to produce all this variety of foods that were required, in order to feed the animals and for other reasons as well. In the old days for several reasons the sowing fields had to be divided into a three-year-rotation, not only to achieve these variety of foods, but it was also necessary to rotate the fields then in order to keep them producing, otherwise the soil would become tired and produce very little, in other words if we would continue to use the fields every year they would produce next to nothing and therefore it was not worth working them, for this reason our forbear had devised this three year rotation, which worked thus;

One year a field would be fallow land and it would not be used at all, or used very little growing broad beans or something like that, then the next year it would be sown with durum wheat, and the year after that the same field would be sown with oats or barley, or other light seeds, and the year after that to fallow land again. So, in realty there was only one third of the land producing durum wheat each year, which was the produce that brought in money to the farmers.

When I was young a lot of people used to work in those farms as I have said, and it was hard physical work specially at certain times of the year, and there was no much money to be made, with the exception of every now and then when we had a really good wheat harvest; but when the harvest was lean everybody would suffer, and all one could do was to start all over again for another year, and so, one was hoping and perhaps praying God for a better harvest next year, yes in those times people were a lot more religious than today, so, they believed in God and prayed God and all the saints that they could think of, hoping that they could help them produce good harvests.

Anyhow, there were too many years of lean harvest when I was young, some average and only a very few years we had good harvests. But somehow people kept going on, and they were so used to poverty that they accepted it and seemed to be happy just the same, because they did not know of a better life. But one has to keep in mind that the main harvest is only once a year, and one year is a very long time when there is not enough money to go around, even to buy those things that were really necessary to live a modest life.

For all the work that I did in the farm in my youth, I earned almost nothing, but I was able to eat plain wholesome food, and buy a few cheap cloths to keep warm in winter, which sounds very bad these days, but then when there was nothing better that one could do, even this hard and unpleasant way of life would have to do, as long as one could live a healthy life; perhaps living a healthy life was the only thing that we could achieve easily then, because the air was healthier in the country, the life was very boring but at the same time it was not mentally stressful compared to living in towns these days, and if there was any complain about a stench that came from the farm animals, it was something that would not harm anybody, it is only natural that all animals smell of something, we smell also of something even if we don’t notice it.

Books reading when I was young

When I was young in the farm, I used to read many books, in a way I was luck that I had an older brother that liked to read a lot, so I read also a lot since the books were there to read. I have even read Homer, Virgil, and Dante books and many other
When I was young in the farm, I used to read many books, in a way I was luck that I had an older brother that liked to read a lot, so I read also a lot since the books were there to read. I have even read Homer, Virgil, and Dante books and many other | Source

The human side of farming

Now let us look at the human side of farming, so, let me go back to my own life in the farm, and my experience as a young boy. If we want to understand that better, one needs to see how the ways of living had been set up, from the generations before us for their own needs.

Anyhow, at the time when I was young in Genzano every family had a dwelling in town, no matter to which group of people or families one belonged, we all had a home in town even if it was only a room or a few rooms that we could live-in in the town itself. But the farmers’ families not only had a home in town like everybody else, where their women folks elderly people and children lived; but most of the farmers had also a rustic farm building in the fields, where the farmer would keep his animals, and with the help of his workers if he had any workers he would work his fields from there. The farmers’ children especially those that were to become farmers one day would start working in the farm very early in life, or as soon as they would finish their compulsory schooling years, that in those times were just the primary schools.

The compulsory primary schools in Italy in those times were up to grade five; now, today it would seem that you could not learn much in five years, but in those times, we were taught to read and write, we were taught the four main math operations, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, which are the base of just about everything, we were asked to solve simple problems with them at least ones a week; we were also taught about our human history, even if it wasn’t in small details, it covered old history up to the Christian era, middle age history up to the discovery of America and modern history; it wasn’t a lot, but it gave us just enough to understand that the world changes and one Era ends and a new one begins. Anyhow, now let us go back to tell you my farm life story, because this is the real reason that I am writing this article.

Now, some of the youths whose families were better off financially would start to help in the farm only during summer for a year or two, and then as they became older they would start staying in the farm full time the whole year. But I wasn’t that lucky and at the time when I left school the first time, I was only 10 years old and I was going to be 11 years old during that year, when I had to start full time for the whole year in the farm. At that time young boys were only required to attend school up to grade 5, and I had already done so, so I went to help in our family farm full time. Then a few years later the schooling laws changed, and all the youths had to attend school up to grade 8, or be at least 14 years old to leave school. So, I and a few other boys of my same age were the last of the little educated youths. (Now just to make it clear to our readers during my life, I have read many books and every now and then whenever I have been able to I have tried to continue to study; and even though I have not been to college, I have studied and done some courses in building and quantity surveying)

Now you can imagine how I felt in the farm when I was young; I was perhaps the youngest boy around for miles so to speak, and I was of that age when young boys like me would start thinking and wandering about how best one could find a way into society, because one becomes aware of the need to be social and friendly with people, otherwise one would become shy and withdrawn just like I did.

Anyhow, this old way of living in the farms was very hard especially for me, because, since the great loss of my father when I was 5 years old, my family had lived mourning him and a life withdrawn from society; so, now that we were all over that period of grief that any family can have, I felt that somehow I was a bit more withdrawn that the other boys of the same age. I needed a break more than everybody else, but it was not to be, because I was needed to help in the farm, so, I ended up working in the family farm and I became more isolated than ever, and that was no good for me socially.

My helping (working) in the family farm when I was young was no good for me socially, since there is nothing to learn socially in the farm except farm things, which in the end they might even be put to good use, but only from those persons that would be able to practice farming during their whole life timelifetime.

Farming life of those days was so hard and boring, especially for me at that particular time of my life when I was young. So, nowadays when I think about it, it makes me feel so hurt and unhappy and I ask myself why this had to happen to me, and I feel so hurt that I would like to tell you a story beginning with, ‘When I was young’ just to show you how much harder life was then compared with today’s ways of life.

Now let me add this observation here, while I am editing this article, I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard life is for anyone of us, we should not despair as we could always try to do better, you see, today I am able to write this article even though I have not been trained to write when I was young, just because I have not given up and I have tried to improve myself whenever I could.

Now that I have explained the ways of life in the farms of those days, mentally I am going over the farm life of my ancestors, who had lived the same hard life as I did and they did not lament about it because they did not know better; and then I think about what it would be the farm life like today compared to old times; you see I want to compare all those things together, just to have a clear picture of what is happening to us. By comparing the farm life of these generations, I have come to the conclusion that I and those youths that as me ended up working in the farms when we were young, we were the last unlucky ones, because today even if a young man ends up working in the farms, they start when they are older and they cannot be as lonely as we were, because today they can have the company of electronic devices, like the radio and the mobile phones, so one can always keep in touch with the rest of the world community.

I think that I have said enough in this article, so see you in my next article where I will tell you a bit more about my farm life. See you there.

© 2011 F-Menchise


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    • F-Menchise profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Brisbane Australia

      Thank you desertlab for reading my hub and taking the time to comment on it, I appreciate it indeed. I have to say here that my story has already been and I am writing it just to compare it with today's stories, whether they are sad or happy.

    • desertlab profile image


      8 years ago

      My heart breaks upon reading you hub. I know how hard it is to live in the farm, I remember the days when I visited my grandparent's farm. There, I was able to learned and experience how difficult life is to live in the farm. We planted vegetables, water it everyday, find fish in the river...F-Menchise, I understand how you feel..


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