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Editorial: Reminiscing about our farming legacy

I bumped into Edwin Boger the other day at the store. We reminisced.

It made me remember that our past is not only important, it’s interesting, as well. Of course, we talked some about farming. Mr. Boger was a farmer, and by all accounts, a good one at that.

But the farm he retired with wasn’t the farm he started with.

A six-cow dairy, all milked by hand. He’s done that. At the time, I’m not sure of the year, there were more than 100 dairies operating in Davie County. None were very large, but they, along with maybe an acre of cotton or tobacco, provided some cash money for a people who pretty much were subsistence farmers. I’m not even sure how many dairies operate here now, but I’d bet the number can be counted on one hand.

My grandfather Barnhardt operated one of those small dairies. I don’t remember how many cows he milked, but I do remember that when we would make homemade ice cream, dad would always go to the dairy to get some fresh cream. Ice cream never tasted any better.

Then the dairies started getting larger and larger. More equipment became available to assist with the milking, allowing the farmer to have more cows, and more cows.

And to top that off, the government started to get involved in milk production. We know how things go when the government sticks its nose into the mix.

Pretty soon, the small dairy farmer was a thing of the past. And if we don’t reverse the trend, the family farmer will be a thing of the past. Sure, there are many farming families, but some work for a company. They’re told what to grow or raise and when to do it, and at what level. Guaranteed money, but it takes away some of the lure that working on the land brings — that feeling of working for oneself, in an occupation that positively affects many more people than just your own family.

I’ve always admired farmers. I’ve even thought about farming some myself, but I’m woefully underskilled for the job. I can plant things and make them grow. I can harvest. I can eat. Heck, we can all do that. But I’m no mechanic, which a farmer must be. I’m no accountant, either, and a farmer has to be good with the books. My strength, well, it isn’t that great. Farmers have to be physically strong. I remember well when John Sparks, a small man and a retired dairy farmer, helped us deliver newspapers. He held a 40-or-so-pound stack of newspapers out for me to grab, and when I wasn’t ready, he just held it there. Try that at home.

Thankfully, there is a movement in this country to produce more food closer to the consumer. Neighborhood gardens. Community gardens. Backyard gardens. It all makes sense. And I think kids are more likely to try new foods if they have a hand in making it grow.

But we’ll still need the farmer.

And we can learn from the old timers; not only about our history, but about life. So talk to a retired farmer, it will be an interesting conversation, for sure.

Mike Barnhardt is editor of the Davie County Enterprise-Record.

Respect Quote of the Week

“Respect is accepting people for who they are, and treating others with the same care you give others who you respect. The way I show respect to others is with manners and with kindness. It feels to me mature because you know how to value one another and show them the respect and kindness they are giving back to you.”

— Karen Razo