He Takes His Coffee Black
He gets up every morning and pulls on yesterday’s Wranglers. His coffee pot is set to brew a single cup. He takes his coffee black. Half a mile down the road, his grandfather does the same. And a few states away, his actions are mirrored by my father.
I’ve grown up around agriculture, but never really looked it in the face for what it is. After I moved away, I realized that I tend to be selfish and naive when I love. I expect easy. I assume everyone knows what I know.
Now that I have been away for almost three years- finding myself in townhouses, and bunkbeds by the beach- I’ve began to form a longing for the world I was raised in, or even more-so, raised by. The land raises us. Ask any farm or ranch kid, and they will tell you that same thing. Our parents trusted us with the world, and with the keys to whatever piece of equipment they had on hand.
They handed us the reins early on, whether we realized it or not. My dad was constantly educating me on how I could one day be a partner with the land. He was instilling within me the truth and confidence it takes to be a man or woman of agriculture in a world that is constantly doubting our ways. He encouraged his children to take part in 4H and FFA so we learned that there is a structure and responsibility that we will be held accountable for.
I was naive, as I still am, and I didn’t realize that one day I could be sitting next to people that I call my friends, and hear them tell me they hate farmers. I didn’t know that one day a statement like that could have me calling my father to remind me of why we choose this life, when so many people remain ignorant to what it actually is.
That young man who takes his coffee black, his grandfather, and my father are the reason there is food on most of our tables. They are the reason that there is still undeveloped land, and handshakes. They are reason I was taught the value of hard-work, prayer, and rain.
Agriculture builds a certain type of community. One that is trustworthy, and present. Now that I’ve been away, I’ve learned that many of my generation grew up with a different type of country. They learned through lyrics on a radio station that red solo cups and a bonfire during the summer define country.
My cousins and I were either still harvesting, or just tired from a long day of work, so we never went to those bonfires. We had water canteens instead of red solos, and grease on our pants. That was our country.
It was not easy. And it was not the clothing section of today’s farm and ranch stores.
My first date with the young man who takes his coffee black was in a rain jacket and rubber boots as we irrigated alfalfa. It is similar to the dates my parents went on, and my grandparents.
I’ve been hurting the last few months over the statement my friend made. I don’t think they even realized they said it, but I heard it, and it has stuck with me.
My eyes have started to open up to this idea that there is a missing generation. That the people I pass on the sidewalk don’t know what it is like to be raised by the land. They would laugh if they knew my favorite kind of date involves irrigation. But that doesn’t just fall on their shoulders, it actually also falls on ours. We have been diligent with our work, and done well producing the food the world needs to survive, but we have failed to educate people who weren’t born into the same way of life.
It’s not just that McDonald’s pays a higher wage, or that work ethic is lacking in our generation- it’s that we, as a community of agriculture, have not yet opened our eyes to our own good fortune.
I can say that, because that is me. I am constantly taking my childhood for granted. I didn’t, and often still don’t, realize what I had in front of me all along.
Agriculture is a full time job. It is a lifestyle. A song on the radio is a minute compared to the amount of hours that my father, the young man who likes his coffee black, and his grandfather put in each day.
My years away have taught me this: some of us that were raised by the land, do go back. We do continue our family’s namesake. We are excited about the prospect of a hard day’s work.
We do desire to educate ourselves, and those around us, of the beauty that agriculture is- and all that it stands for.
And we do wake up and thank men like my father, the young man who takes coffee black, and his grandfather, for the way they continue to go on teaching and trusting their children with the ways of the land in hopes that we will see what they see everyday.