A look back in time

Tilling the soil from which we eat

I don’t drive a DeLorean, but we did manage to take a short trip back in time last weekend. The North Carolina Work Horse and Mule Association hosted their Annual Corn Planting Day at Indian Ridge Farm in Linden, NC and we headed out for an afternoon of family fun. It was a short drive from Wake Forest, but it felt as though we had traveled years back in time.

The association is made up of a group of folks that are interested in preserving our farming heritage by educating people about the use of animals to plow the fields and plant the crops as it was done in the early 1900’s. There was a display of antique tractors, but they sat silently beside the split rail fence. They took a back seat to the sounds of mules braying, farmers calling out commands to the teams, and the sound of metal slowly turning the earth over, preparing for the fertilizer and then the seed.

Like any proper gathering on a farm, there was a lunch line with homemade cakes, cookies, hot dogs, chili and other edibles. Old time music floated gently through the air on a sunny afternoon. One group, Washboard Ray and Little Sidney presented their version of the variety show, complete with a washtub bass, good humor and family style stories. At nine years old, Sidney looks to have a promising career in the entertainment field and Ray was a treat as he narrated the show.

Washboard Ray and Sydney-dueling kazoos

Anna tried her hand at helping distribute the fertilizer in the field. She guided the plow while the team of horses trod slowly back and forth across the field. Several other kids and adults got their turn at walking behind the team. It was entertainment for today, but a way of life that has mostly disappeared from our landscape.

While they were planting corn, it did give me pause to think about Anna’s Gourmet Goodies and how we rely on a farmer, somewhere, to care for the earth, till the soil, plant the wheat, and hope that nature responds with bounty. As I watched those men and women skillfully maneuvering their teams around the field, it reminded me just how our farmers put their livelihood at risk, to produce the food we so easily acquire every day at the local grocery.

With all the greed, gluttony, fraud and abuse that dominate the news these days, it was refreshing to step back and mingle with those men and women who till the dirt and plant their hopes and dreams several times a year. They are careful stewards of the land that provides them a life and feeds at least a part of the world. I did not hear a single word about bad mortgages, foreclosures, bankruptcy, bailouts, mergers, or layoffs all day. It was indeed a breath of fresh air.

Anna takes a turn at workin’ the dirt

I hope that Anna came away with a little more appreciation of just how the materials we buy for our business and the food for our table, gets started in the first place. Somebody has to till the dirt and plant the seeds to produce the crop that eventually, becomes one of our cookies or brownies. I’m just grateful that I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with some of these folks and learn a little bit about our farming heritage in the Sandhills of North Carolina.

I am reminded of this version of an ancient Chinese proverb I heard on public radio about 25 years ago:

When the sun comes up, I go to work.
When the sun goes down, I take my rest.
I dig the well from which I drink,
I till the soil from which I eat.
Kings can do no more.

Contact information:
c/o Debbie Denton
10501 Ramsey Street
Linden, NC 28356

Washbord Ray
Raymond Jones
40 Dawn Road
Benson, NC 27504

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