Many people who work the land have been conned by the last and lamentable White House occupant and his minions into believing city slickers are smug and relatively safe in these too-many ivory towers, and consider them rubes in flyover country. But speaking as a lifelong Chicagoan in a single-family home that always needs work, most of which we do ourselves when energy and work allow us enough time for it, and who took to heart Master Gardener training more than two decades ago (and took those lessons directly within the heart of what used to be the Hog Butcher to the World) — well, those few don’t speak for me and mine.
It is true that some densely populated places have plans and projects in the works for immense warehouses, some under glass, lights and fans galore, where a city can grow foodstuffs, lettuce, tender annuals, fish even. Not nearly everything a metropolis would require, though. There are farmers’ markets and urban gardens where we approximate as best we can what you do every day, though again it’s not the same by a long shot.
Along with most of the country, rural people take out loans and pay the bills and stretch to make ends meet, trying to plan for the coming year in spite of dreading when the next deluge might arrive, if a cow’s about to breech her calf, even if the vet bill’s enorous you may still lose them both, whether you’ll be able to hire enough help to get the harvest in.
Farmers raise the animals that get slaughtered and carved into loins, chops, roasts, and more, for all of us to eat. Farmers and their families suffer the financial losses when a twister or out-of-control wildfire or hundred-year flood lays waste the goats and their kids, or the established fruit trees ready to bear, or what was to have been next week’s harvest. Farmers and their neighbors are predominantly kind souls with big hearts, employing who they can, assisting others in need, feeding many, many more.
Now, most of us know when killing is called for. I don’t live-trap mice and let them go “free” somewhere (I recognize this abomination as a citified though non-universal thing) like out in the alleys, because the vermin or their successors will do their damndest to find their way back into our bread bags and dog chow and grain stores. No! Rodents are properly eaten by raptors or snakes and the occasional hen (and yes, folks — they will peck and eat mice. Vermin are to be dispatched, without passion, by us, our chickens, and our rat-catcher dogs.
There is always something that wants doing on a farm, often rightnow! Things break and there’s no repair shop down the block. You and yours, your neighbors perhaps, you’re it to fix it. As the old sampler goes, you use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
You could exist at any moment without us, but not we without you. You do not need to visit the huge museums or wander the downtown streets or dine in our restaurants, but we are grateful when you can come and do so. We all need food, so for this and you who make it happen, we are filled anew and properly with gratitude. Many in the cities are trying to learn these things you grew up with; please forgive our impatience to know the essentials-and-then-some, to try to catch up with you.
In quarantine my neighbors have been wondering why there are so many butterflies, or why they never heard that particular bird (how rare! It isn’t? What can it be?) singing before, or what pokeweed is and why you can’t let the chore of pulling it when you spot it get away from you, not even in the dirty city. Your mouth may allow a small smile, as did mine, at one man, excited that he just saw “baby bees.” How fortunate are all those who know there are entire biology lessons to be had right outside the kitchen door, beginning chemistry in any cookbook and kitchen. Fortunate are all who are able to keep seeking information and finding solutions.
This we know: the land sustains you, and us, and everyone. May the sun shine warm upon your backs, and the rains fall soft upon your fields. We thank you, our brothers and sisters upon this great blue-green marble.