- Mental Health»
How growing up on a farm strengthened me as a person.
Calloused hands are the most understanding.
We read about it in books, and we’re all familiar with the clichés associated with farm life, but how much does growing up on a farm really affect a person? Well, I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but having spent my entire life on a twenty acre livestock farm in the middle of what city folk like to call the sticks, surrounded by dairy and beef farms, I can honestly say that what I learned on my farm has shaped every bit on my character.
I was being held up on horseback before I could talk, and as soon as I could walk I was being knocked off my feet by impatient sheep. I spent many hours wielding a stick in battles against vicious, relentless roosters, all the while learning what it means to respect the natural world around me. My father, a forester by trade, crafted me my own axe by the time I was seven and he would spend hours with my younger brother and I chopping branches in the woods; teaching us how to build fires, what plants we could or couldn’t eat, and how to avoid dangerous wildlife.
Farm life taught me a lot about life and death at a young age. I learned a lot about respect for the animals that provided food for us, and how much it meant to raise them well and respectfully as they were going to give their lives for us. I learned what it meant to make the difficult decisions about quality of life for an animal; making choices about whether it is more ethical to keep them alive or keep them from suffering.
Naturally, as children, my brother and I found endless adventures around the farm. We didn’t know the meaning of boredom. Not only did it make for great childhood memories, but it taught me a lot about who I am as a person and I feel as if that independence that I established at a younger age helped me build a stronger foundation in life.
As many do, I struggled a lot in high school and really lost touch with myself. However, to make a long story short, the structure and discipline I had at home through hard work and responsibilities kept me grounded. I learned that no matter how much I complained, my responsibilities were not going anywhere, and I could either learn to enjoy my work or go on being miserable. I learned to appreciate the work that I had; I was luckier than most. My horses, my dog, my chickens; these were my best friends and at the end of the day nothing mattered more than taking care of the animals that kept the farm functioning.
As an adult I notice it more than I did growing up. Every little lesson I learned on the farm has translated into other aspects of my life. I see people today who seem to know nothing of the term work ethic and it baffles me, but I imagine if I hadn’t grown up the way that I did that I might be the same. I find more self-reward in hard labor, blood, sweet, and tears, than anything else.