Where I grew up, we weren't that rural by a lot of standards. Grand Rapids, population 200,000 was only 25 minutes away. We lived just a mile west of Sparta, a town of 4,000 people that had everything you needed, including a McDonald’s!! But, even so, we grew up similar to so many other rural kids, and I think summertime baseball is the ultimate metaphor for that point in your life.
As a kid, it was the Detroit Tigers, and the legendary Ernie Harwell. Many nights, after dinner, we’d go help in the garden for a little bit, or help dad pick up a few stray bales out in the field. Like most other farm kids, we did our 4-H chores, checked cows, and, if we were lucky, got to ride though the pasture with dad to check cows for the night. Then it was back to the house, and like so many other farm kids a crossed America, we’d tune the radio in to the ballgame. I can still see, feel, and smell it. Ernie Harwell on the radio, dad reading the paper and maybe having a beer, and the cool breeze finally coming in the windows of the old farmhouse. It was heaven on earth, and really, we didn’t think it got any better.
People often wonder what it is about farmers, how they can have this almost surreal bond between them, even if they’ve just met. And the answer is simple: we all grew up the same. We all felt that simple life of living in the country, and learning to enjoy the very simple things in life. It’s how young farmers from all over the state, and even the country, and become friends in minutes, and stay friends for years, because no matter where we grew up, we all lived The Simple Life.
Jeff VanderWerff is a 4th generation farmer from Sparta, Michigan. Learn more about him and his family farm at www.youtube.com/agsalesman