God be thanked for making farmers

God be thanked for making farmers
Photo of Todd Merrill farm. Courtesy of Boyd Matheson

In the midst of a trade and tariff war with China, politicians pontificate and casually contend that the current squabbles are hurting the farmers of this nation. Sadly, not too many Americans today give much thought to where their food comes from. Few have ever been to a farm and fewer still have friend who is actually a farmer. 

I don’t know a thing about farming, but I do have friend, my brother-in-law Todd Merrill, who is not only a farmer but a farmer’s farmer. He has taught me a few things, more through the way he lived than what he said. Farmers don’t need a lot of words to teach things that transcend making a living off of the land. Todd taught and lived the kind of principles that can transform a dream into a reality and a life into a legacy. 

We often celebrate the gutsy entrepreneur who starts a business in their garage and grows it into a thriving organization. We cheer the investor who takes a major risk on the upside potential of a struggling company that turns into gold. We praise those who have stared down a downturn or setback and rebounded to achieve the extraordinary. We rightly applaud these people and the principles that drive them. But anyone who knows an agrarian knows that all of these things are simply a typical day in the life of a farmer. 

There are no greater entrepreneurs in the world than the farmers that look out across the land, often parched and rugged, and see a vision of fields filled with wheat and corn or vegetables and orchard. What risk-taker would bet their mortgage on tiny seeds buried in the dirt? Who would risk their life savings on what day to cut wheat or bale hay? 

Bad luck, bad weather, bad sleep, bad seed, bad equipment, bad health, bad market — those are just part of the deal. A farmer has no time for self-pity, discouragement or blame. True farmers always turn the bad into good, then give thanks to God for the good they get. 

I guess God needed a good farmer in heaven as He called Todd home Wednesday morning after a tough test with a brutal cancer. Todd, just shy of his 53rd birthday, was a great and gentle man who possessed one of the grandest souls I have ever known. His kindness, relentless labor, leadership, commitment to community, faith, faithfulness and love of family will forever represent to me all that is good and godly in the life of a larger-than-life farmer, father and friend. 

In honor of Todd, and in tribute to all farmers, I share the 1978 Paul Harvey classic, “So God made a farmer”: 

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer. 

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer. 

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer. 

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer. 

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer. 

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church. 

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer. 

Farmers understand like no one else on earth the law of the harvest. They know it applies to seeds and saplings and steers as well as it does to courage and the content of your character. God be thanked for making farmers — especially for the farmers who plant goodness, reap joy and lay up for themselves a legacy that will last for generations to come. 

Boyd C. Matheson is the opinion editor of the Deseret News. This article was first published in the Deseret News on May 16, 2019, and is reprinted here with permission of the author.

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