Young farmers value lessons learned from Agricultural lifestyle

Izzy Gaspar’raj | The Chronicle

On a drive through Mason, it is now more likely to see subdivisions rather than farmland. However, there are still students, like sophomore Michael Ferguson, who have found a way to keep their roots in farming. Since childhood, Ferguson has spent countless weekends and summer breaks of his life living and working on his family’s farm. There, his family grows crops such as wheat, soybeans and corn. Alongside working the land, they also tend animals, such as cattle.

While most students spend their weekends relaxing, Ferguson makes the three-hour trip north right after school on Friday to his 125-acre farm in Morrow County, where he works with his great-grandmother and uncle. After a long weekend full of labor, he is ready to pack his bags to make the trek back to Mason in order to be ready for school on Monday. He said that these long trips are worth it though because he appreciates the manual labor aspect of the agriculture business.

“I’m more of a labor-over-paper kind of guy and being outside [is] a lot of dealing with nature,” Ferguson said. “You work with Mother Nature, your schedule is written by her.”

Settled in suburbia, many MHS students are unfamiliar with the farming lifestyle and may not know any farmers. To further agricultural knowledge, an organization called Future Farmers of America (FFA) is present in rural parts of Ohio and helps aspiring farmers gain farming experience. Ferguson has been to some FFA meetings and said the usual attendees consist of a mix of family farmers and aspirational farmers. It is his belief that students his age might be interested in farming because of its kinaesthetic aspects.

“The fact that they get to work with living things [draws them to farming],” Ferguson said. “I don’t want to assume anything, but I think a lot of those people are like me and they’re more hands-on. They’re looking for a profession that fits with that strength of being able to do rather than write.”

Furthering Ferguson’s love of farming is his love of the town in which his farm is located. He especially enjoys the community environment, and how it is slower-paced and more easy-going.

“It’s a lot [quieter] out there, and isolated to an extent,” Ferguson said. “There’s not a lot of hustle down there.”

Though Ferguson feels at home on his farm, he does not prefer Mason over Morrow County, or vice versa. In Mason, he values the suburban environment and how that allows for efficient travel from place to place. As Morrow County is filled for acres with fields, farmland, and, as Ferguson puts it, “just nothing,” he appreciates when he is in Mason and can have “stuff close to [him].”

For Ferguson, being in Morrow County and farming is not just about helping out his family; it is his livelihood, and what he hopes will fill the rest of his working days. He is currently planning on attending Scarlet Oaks while still in high school to receive his welding certification. He said this will help him repair more things on his farm and become more versed in machinery. However, he isn’t limiting his future.

“To keep my options open, I’m doing the high school prep so that I can attempt [to] maybe go to Ohio State University (OSU) if I decided I wanted to go to college,” Ferguson said. “OSU has one of the best agricultural engineering programs.”

Ferguson also said it is only a 45-minute drive from OSU to his farm and, if he attended the university, he would take advantage of its proximity to his farm and would continue to work. After his schooling, he plans to live and work on the property full-time.

Junior Mason Livingston is another student who works at his family’s farm. His family’s land encompasses around 26 acres and is 25 minutes away from his house in Mason. There, they mainly grow, bale and sell hay. Due to hay being their sole operation and their land’s close proximity to their home, it is less of a commitment than Ferguson’s routine.

Still, the work of tending to the land and of baling is a very laborious job. Even though working on a farm takes a lot of stamina and strength, Livingston still finds satisfaction in it.

“Once you embrace the pain of physical labor, it actually gets pretty fun,” Livingston said. “You’re out there with your friends… and your cousins and you’re out there hav ing a good time. Even though it can be painful, it’s fun and it’s hard work–it’s rewarding too.”

Similar to Livingston, Ferguson considers his day as a farmer to be long and tiring. Starting at three or four o’clock in the morning, it consists of feeding livestock, tending to crops, repairing machines and working until you cannot work any longer.

“I know a lot of people say that it’s a grind, but they still do it,” Ferguson said. “My great-grandfather lived until 83. Every now and then he’d complain, but he still worked out there until he couldn’t stand.”

Not only is farming physically demanding and taxing, but it is also time-consuming. Livingston said that “sometimes [he has] not been able to go out [and work],” due to him having schoolwork. Livingston has many other relatives who work on his farm, so when these conflicts arise, he said he is able to “prioritize school”.

One reason that Ferguson feels so passionately about farming is that he thinks that it is vital to the lifeblood of the United States and that the people behind that work should be appreciated.

“It’s definitely a dying art, you could say,” Ferguson said. “Farmers, we run a lot of the getting of the produce. We do a lot of utility work, too.”

Ferguson said that because he is a farmer who works with crops, he recognizes all of the work that goes into producing the food eaten every day. He wishes that students at his school would be conscious of this, as well as care about the resources that are misused each day as a result of food waste.

“More people would have that appreciation of having that food available to them,” Ferguson said. “If they didn’t want it, a lot more people, instead of just throwing it away, would find someone that wanted it or just send it back.”

As for Livingston, his takeaway from his farming experience is that whatever effort you put in, you get that back out of it. He thinks this lesson applies to many aspects of everyone’s life.

“If [farming has] taught me one thing in particular,” Livingston said. “I would say that hard work definitely pays off.”

Graphic by Alisha Verma