Farmer DNA

Cyndi’s Two Cents

Farmer DNA


I spent some time Sunday afternoon reading through old deeds and abstracts from my family farm in west central Illinois. Jonathon and Elizabeth Young were early pioneers who settled in the part of Morgan County that would later become Scott County sometime in the early 1820’s. Both Jonathon’s and Elizabeth’s parents had been farmers in Virginia, then Kentucky, before moving further west.

Farming is in my DNA.

Reading the land description for Elizabeth’s father’s farm in Virginia in 1783 made me chuckle, as that is how many people I know grew up giving directions:  “. . .the parcel of Land lying & being in the County of Botetourt on the north side of the south mountain containing two hundred & fifty acres bounded as follows: Beginning at a White oak & hickory thence South forty four poles to a red oak South thirteen Degrees West twenty Eight Poles to a large White oak Corner to the old Survey & with the old Line. . .”

I have an enlarged copy of a photograph taken on my family farm in 1938. In it, my grandpa is sitting in the seat of his newly purchased Allis Chalmers WC tractor. Standing on the combine pulled by the tractor is my grandma, wearing a dress and a wide-brimmed hat. My dad, their oldest child, would be born later that year.

Grandpa bought a combine, tractor, plow, drill, and 2-row cultivator that year. He had a pick-up attachment for the combine that allowed him to harvest red clover in windrows. He did custom wheat combining, as his was one of the few combines in the area at the time. It wasn’t until 1945 – only 77 years ago – that there was more tractor power than living horse power on America’s farms.  Agriculture has come such a long way in a relatively short amount of time!

Although people who farmed in those early days have fond memories of life on the farm, most will tell you that the physical work was much more intense; that it was more dangerous; and without the benefits of modern science and technology, they had much less to show for all that work than farmers do today. Crop yields were a fraction of what they are today. Farmers and their families’ lives were simply harder and shorter.

I remember Grandpa telling me one time about a winter when he was a boy that was so cold he just couldn’t get warm. Can you imagine a rough winter with no electricity?

Less than one hundred years ago, most people in this country lived on a farm or in a rural community. It is their grandchildren who may not understand why we do things the way we do on our farms. It is those children and grandchildren of what journalist Tom Brokaw described as “The Greatest Generation” that have romanticized the life their grandparents lived on the farm.

If we work together, we could help these people find in themselves the DNA from their ancestors.