TheFirstFurrow

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 Accidents Happen. Will You Be Ready?

My husband, John, and I belong to the weekend warriors: farmers who are dependent on off-farm income to sustain our families, provide insurance, and help plan for the future. We both work full-time jobs off the farm, have a toddler, families, friends, and church. As you can imagine, we don’t have a lot of spare time. Our farming is jammed into nights, weekends, vacation days, and holidays. Our time spent on the farm is carefully planned in advance; we divide and conquer to accomplish more tasks, and more often than not our to-do list gets precariously longer instead of encouragingly shorter.

While most folks had 4th of July plans to tan on the beach, my tan would come from wearing a tank top while spraying herbicides on multi-flora rose and blackberry bushes. While others drove the parkway, John drove the tractor to catch up on clipping our pastures. While families watched fireworks that night, we drove home with our sleeping toddler in the backseat.

Our farming day started like most at our farm. My parents picked up our son to take him back to their farm for the day. John filled the tractor with diesel, and I mixed the tank of herbicide. Bluebird skies and no breeze told me it would be a great day for the task at hand. With no drift, I could get a LOT accomplished in the limited time we had that day.

On my second tank, I decided to head up a logging road cut through the pasture to take care of some blackberry canes that were both at the base of the road and at the top. I had finished spraying the bushes at the base of the road, and was heading to the top when the front, right side of the 4-wheeler started to rise, and in the blink of an eye, there was no doubt it was rolling.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 From Dial-Up to Snapchat: Building Ag Communities Online

I can remember like it was yesterday. Once farm chores and homework were completed, there was the opportunity to fire up the computer. And wait for it connect to the internet via dial up. There was no mute button for the wheerrrrrr wweeee DINNNGGG DDDIINNNNGGG DINNNNGGG of the dial up connecting. For a high schooler in the 90s in rural America, the internet was a fascinating place of email, chat rooms, and AOL Instant Messenger. Only one remains popular, and the others have been replaced with text messaging, Snapchat and Facebook.

We lived in mostly isolated parts of northwest North Carolina; my parents are divorced and both lived on a dirt road. My dad’s was a dead end road, with no neighbors on the road. The closest neighbor at my mom’s was a mile away. Needless to say, there were very few play dates and group activities with other rural youth, with the exception of school and church. And even then, it wasn’t uncommon to still feel somewhat isolated as the other kids at school and church had very little interest in the cattle we hauled across the country or the pigs we were taking to the State Fair.

Enter the internet, and with it the ability to connect with kids who WERE interested in the same things as me! I met tons of people my age from across the state and nation through FFA and National Junior Angus Association, and the internet gave us the platform to grow our small community. With the reliability of dial up, we were usually only able to chat for 5-10 minutes before a call beeped in or someone else needed the internet for legitimate reasons, like homework, but it was still exciting to talk to other kids who shared my interests.

While the availability and reliability of internet in rural areas has changed, the isolation in many of our rural areas has not. Many farm youth and adults are still utilizing the internet for the same reasons I did 20 years ago.