The other evening three generations of my family sat down together at our dinner table. My daughter Jessica and her husband Steve had come home to help plant strawberries. Since they were around it seemed like a great opportunity to have my parents, John and Anna, come for dinner.
We were tired after a long, hot day transplanting strawberry plants. Although three out of four of the tasks to plant strawberries can be done while sitting down on equipment, it is still very tiring, dusty work.
Dinner conversation with my parents turned to what farming was like before the advent of tractors and other implements to help them with their work. Farm tasks were much harder and took a lot longer back in the days of my parents’ youth. My dad remembers when his father bought their first tractor in the early 1940s. He recalls what a great advancement tractors were because they could plough a field a lot faster than a team of horses.
In the old days it would have taken days and days to hand plant the 10,000 strawberry plants and the 2.5 hectares of sweet corn we had planted earlier.
Today, farmers typically specialize in one or two crops. But in my parents’ day, farmers diversified their harvest, with a variety of crops and livestock to best utilize their resources and the growing season. My mother’s family farmed on Elgin Mills next to what is now Hwy. 404, and raised pigs, chickens, dairy cattle, and they raised sheep to sell the wool. They grew strawberries to pick and sell to the neighbours, and planted crops. I’m sure they were dead tired every night from May till the end of October. Funny, it sounds like my days, even with tractors and implements. Perhaps the life of a farmer isn’t that much different from generation to generation. Hard work, good weather and good luck are still necessary to have a good crop.
By the way, it isn’t too late to plant a garden for this season. Turn your gardening aspirations into a reality this year and develop your own connection with the land. In my opinion, it’s one of the most satisfying things you can do.