We’ve all heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. When it comes to the family farm, it’s worth even more. Memories of growing up in the country are priceless. I grew up on an Iowa dairy and hog farm, and even with all the hard work and “extra chores” Dad could dream up for Saturday, the memories are what I now enjoy … driving the tractor when I turned 10, first Holstein calf as a 4-H project and even planting my own one-acre plot of corn and keeping track of costs.
But, a picture of the family farm serves another very worthwhile purpose. It’s a historical documentation of a specific point in time, the year that photo was made.
A friend of mine, Linda, took great advantage of this.
“I ordered a photo of the family farm for a Christmas present for each of my children,” she relates. “And carefully wrapped them to put under the tree.”
Many people do this, but Linda went a step further. With a few interviews and some research she put together a history of the farm, which had been in the family since her husband’s grandfather purchased it.
Then, she neatly typed up the history, printed it on a sheet of paper, and carefully fastened it to back of each photo she was giving her children.
“Normally, at our house, they tear open one gift after another, tossing wrapping paper everywhere. It’s a real mess,” she said. Linda says when they opened the farm picture everything stopped. Unwrapping was put on hold while each of her children read the farm history on the back of their family farm photo.
“It was quiet for almost five minutes,” she recalls, “followed by a lot of hugs and thank you’s.”
Linda’s story is special. But, when you consider the memories captured in a vintage farm photo, there are many others that are special too. As a lifetime agricultural photographer and writer, and growing up on a farm, I hear a lot of stories and have written about and photographed a lot of farms. I admire the respect farm families hold for their land, buildings and homes.
Farms and ranches are unusual – they combine the work, the family, the home and the land — all together. Call it rural lifestyle, or just plain country, farming and ranching are unlike any other occupations in America, filled with warm summer days, hectic harvests and busy calving times. Good memories.
I’ll be jotting down future stories on this blog, maybe your farm … so stay tuned.
Also, we welcome your stories, and have reserved a special place for them here. So send them in. Until next time, we’ll see you along the country roads.
Denny Eilers is an agricultural photojournalist whose writing and photos appear regularly in farm magazines, newspapers and newsletters. He has also written history books on agriculture and farm equipment. After working “in the city” for many years, he has returned to live and write from his family farm in northeast Iowa. www.iowaphotofarm.com