The Non-Rural Side of Iowa

Growing up

Wheat field and fall forest

A picture of the farm I grew up on. Photo Credits: Tony Schumacher

Growing up on a dairy farm was normal in my small town in central Wisconsin. Everybody either was a farm kid, or was friends with someone who was. That is not to say that everyone knew what living on a farm is like, it just means that they had a basic understanding of what life on a farm entails.

Once I moved to college, I found myself far removed from the basic understanding. I did not expect to be so far removed. After all, I am attending a school in the center of Iowa, a state noted for being rural. Just to highlight the point, the welcome sign for Iowa on the Minnesota border says the state is “fields of opportunities.”

I did not realize how few kids attending Drake University would be from rural areas. My roommate my freshmen year grew up on a farm. One of the students I know from church is helping run his parents’ farm. I only know one other student who grew up on a farm.

Misconceptions about Country Living

The most interesting part of being surrounded by people unfamiliar with country living is the occasional confused look I get when I mention early mornings milking cows or the fun that is trying to catch the pigs when they escape from their pen.

Just the other day I was asked if we milk cows in the middle of the night.

Sometimes. When you milk every 12 hours, part of at least one of the milkings is bound to take place in the dark for at least part of the year.

Another comment that always amuses me is when someone says they want to live on a small farm in the country to enjoy the peace.

I love the country. It is peaceful. But make no mistake; it took me eight years of not doing farm work on a regular basis before the calluses on my hands disappeared.

Growing up on a farm taught me hard work. It did not teach me nearly as much as having to walk uphill to school both ways taught my grandpa, but it taught me quite a bit nonetheless.

Last Thanksgiving break I brought a friend home to visit my family. He had never been on a farm before and we no longer had farm animals, so we took him to visit our neighbor’s dairy. It was odd answering questions that I had always considered to be common sense. However, it also caused me to look at farm life from a fresh perspective.

Since last Thanksgiving, I have realized how many stories I have to tell about farming, and how many more those who farmed longer than I have must have to tell. I would love to start documenting the stories so those who are not familiar with farming can gain an understanding of what it really is, regardless of the slogan on the welcome sign of their state.

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