By: Emma Johnston
My family moved to Burford when I was 6 years old. I grew up on a 3 acre wooded lot, surrounded by tall trees and marshy soil. The wood sided, batten board house where I grew up was forever plagued with the knocking of woodpeckers. No matter what time of year, there was always evidence of raccoons, squirrel nests and snake holes scattered throughout the property.
For a few years my dad owned a pig farm that he rented out, I loved to play in the hayloft and chase the barn cats and explore the corn field.
You could say I grew up in the country. I know what a dark night looks like, I know the sound of the wind as it sways and creaks regal, old Maple trees. I know how to dig my car out of the snow and the smell of fertilizer and the taste of food picked fresh that day.
I was brought up learning stick shift, we had enormous bon fires for every party and I have always owned a pair of practical, waterproof boots.
I love having grown up in the country. I love that I have never squealed at spiders or ran from mice (bats might be another story…) I love that I know some of the constellations that shine at night and that I can see them from my back deck. I love that I grew up with tons of places to explore, big yards and no fences. I love that my kids will grow up with the same experiences. I’m good with being a little bit country.
Though I have always identified with the country, loved large patches of grass and the smell of burning wood and stuffing home grown cherry tomatoes in my mouth all summer long – I have never identified as a Farmer.
I’ve never baled hay or ploughed a field. I’ve never driven a tractor (though, there were quite a few at my high school graduation) or milked cows or picked a peck of pickled peppers. A country girl -yes, but my farm education is severely lacking.
The other day, however, I was in town loading my car with newspaper boxes. These giant stacks of grey plastic boxes are used to get the newspapers to each of the post offices we deliver to. It was raining and icy and I was sick of taking multiple trips up and down the stairs. So, I picked up a five-foot-high pile, hidden behind it I marched down the post office steps and over to my vehicle, as I balanced the pile on one leg and opened my van door with my semi-free hand, a man came up to me and laughed a little.
“Need any help?” he asked as I began throwing the enormous pile of boxes through the door.
“Nope, I’m fine.” I told him and heaved the last of my burden into the van.
He grinned at me, tipped his Farm Supply hat, and said “you, are a true farm girl.”
Now, I’ve never been called a ‘farm girl’ before. I’ve been called many things, both good and bad, but farm girl has never been one of them.
In fact, when examining the list of compliments a young woman would like to receive, this phrase had never even made it to my list. But, despite being a little surprised by the statement, I know that he was offering me, a genuine true- blue compliment.
For the rest of the day I wandered around town grinning. I felt deeply gratified and assured. I don’t know a ton about farming or about what it means to be a ‘farm girl’, but the thing I do know about farmers is that they are tough. They are hard working. They aren’t afraid of a little inclement weather. They are strong and independent and form the foundation on which this little village was built. So, to be ‘lumped’ in with farmers. To be accidently mistaken for a farm girl because I was carrying a pile of heavy boxes and being stubbornly independent, I’ll take it! If I can model resilience or determination or even bull-headed stubbornness to ‘get a job done.’ Then I will.
Thank you Mr. Farmer. May I ever endeavor to live up to that compliment. May I model the examples set before us in this community for over 200 years and unwaveringly work hard. May I always be fiercely independent and whether rain or shine, have the gumption to ‘get ‘er done.’ What an honor to be a called ‘a true farm girl.’ Thank you – you made my day.