Happy 4th of July from Little Wagon Produce and the Vanderwende Family! Where did May and June go? The spring months have been extremely busy on the farm. Farmer Dan laid out his vegetable plots, planted sweet corn as well as field corn and soybeans, and then fertilized everything. My brother, Breck, has been maintaining 2 greenhouses with 3 plantings of annual flowers, herbs, and vegetable transplants which will produce the squash, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant for the summer business. Mom cleaned and opened our retail stand and is already in the regular flow of selling at 3 farmers’ markets close by. Almost all the summer vegetables came on 2 weeks early. We are still waiting for peppers and eggplant to ripen. And as usual, we are in desperate need of rain fall so monitoring irrigation systems is the current priority.
My family has also been busy, as we have celebrated many milestones recently. My grandmother healed from a broken leg, made it through physical therapy, and came home to the farm just in time for her 77th birthday on May 17. Farmer Dan turned 60 soon after on May 22! We combined his birthday celebration with Father’s Day and celebrated in the backyard at the farm. We threw up some tents, had a softball toss, played corn hole, and put his candles on a strawberry shortcake. As it turned dark, mom started a little bonfire for the grandkids to roast marshmallows. They loved it and even Farmer Dan brought out his old softball glove to have a catch!
In June, my brother, Breck and his son, Aydan, celebrated birthdays. Breck turned 39 and Aydan turned 8! We celebrated at Cafe Tamburelli’s with pizza, spaghetti, and a chocolate chip cookie cake. We will have to start planning for Breck’s big 40th next year!
And here it is July already. Several family birthdays are this month including my Uncle Garry, Jimmy, Donnie and even my own. But today was my brother-in-law’s, Shane, who turned 41. He is an “Independence Day Baby” so we combined the two occasions by celebrating at my sister, Danna, and his home tonight. We enjoyed their beautiful new pool and it was nice to relax in the middle of the week.
But I can’t help but go back to Farmer Dan’s big milestone. He doesn’t like to talk about it but 60 years is a lifetime of knowledge, experience, and skills, especially in agriculture! I have been wanting to sit down and talk with him to pull some of these details out. Tonight was perfect because Shane’s family likes to talk history and reminisce, too, so I think they enjoyed joining the conversation. I prepared some short questions to highlight the past and the present. Here is what Farmer Dan had to say:
-If you weren’t a farmer, what do you think you would have done career-wise? I’ve really never thought about it but probably something with athletics, perhaps coaching or physical education. I also think I would’ve liked working in Cooperative Extension.
-What do you miss most about the days of agriculture when you grew up? It was less stressful. There were less financial pressures. It seemed like you could enjoy the work more.
-What is the biggest threat to ag in your opinion? Government regulations.
-What is the best part of being a farmer? Independence. Being your own boss. (Very fitting for the current holiday!)
-What is the most frustrating part of being a farmer today? Technology. All this new machinery has technology that none of us know how to work.
-What do you think future generations will need to succeed in agriculture? Computer skills, most certainly. More knowledge of the global market including global marketing.
-What do you think about women in ag today? Women have always been involved in ag-just more behind the scenes. They are coming to the forefront now because they are good at speaking up for ag rights, educating the public, and marketing products.
The conversation then went on to cover a little of everything. He likes to talk about how his grandfather grew a garden with strawberries and string beans. This is how he became interested in vegetable production. I also asked him what he would do differently. He didn’t answer. Dad has never been one to talk much unless he’s talking about sweet corn, of course. But I’ll take his silence as he wouldn’t do a lot differently. He is an independent, successful farmer and gets to do what he loves everyday. He has a happy, healthy family (who likes to celebrate birthdays!). On a day where we celebrate this great nation’s independence, I would also like to celebrate Farmer Dan’s. So here’s to you, Farmer Dan, and thanks for teaching me how to be independent, too.