The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Farm Family Insights: APRIL 24, 2017

by Natalie Dowell Schmitt

Thinking Out Loud

Advice From An Old Farmer

The big question this spring, as with every spring before, is "did the alfalfa fields make it through the winter?" The warm February and freezing cold March was sending mixed signals to the alfalfa crowns. Should they start to bud or should they wait? Just driving past the fields on either side of the driveway, you can see green undertones giving life to the dead stems of last fall. Fingers crossed the crowns will have enough energy to push through to another year of production. We've been through these season swings before with mixed results. Some years it looked like the alfalfa made it, only to run out of stored energy before plant grew enough to produce its own energy to survive. Other years, you swore it was dead, only to be revived by perfect warm spring rains and bright sunshine. We can't worry about it, but we can be ready to revamp our planting plans just in case. It seems most of the stuff we worry about isn't ever going to happen. We just have to do our best and let God do the rest.

It seems as farmers, we tend to say quite a bit in a just a few words, especially when we become an old farmer. The wisdom and insight these old farmers have learned through the years can help us to temper our anxiety about our situations today. They have seen it, lived through and most of survived it. Even though technology has changed the landscape of agriculture today, the basic struggles are still the same. There are things we can control and things we can't. We just have to be wise enough to recognize the difference and act accordingly.

We recently lost an Old farmer in our family. This will be the first spring without my 99 year old grandfather. Grandpa was a tall, solemn and quiet man. As kids, we swore if he wore a stove-top hat he would look just like Abraham Lincoln. Grandpa didn't say much, but when he spoke you listened with not only your ears but with your heart and head. He always gave us something to think about. Grandpa was happiest out in his gardens. He was running at least 3 gardens in his early 90's. He gave away most of his produce to anyone who needed something to eat. It is a tradition I continue and have passed on to my children as well.

Most of our time with Grandpa was spent on the back porch sitting in the glider rocking in a calming steady rhythm. Age brought us closer to one another. As kids, we matured and settled down while Grandpa softened up and began to share his stories and adventures. These sermons in a sentence may not have come from Grandpa but they remind me of him and my dad as they share their advice from Old Farmers.

Advice from An old Farmer.

Sermons in a sentence or two.


Natalie, Mark and his brother Al, farm together near Rice, Minn. They milked 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are grown up and all involved in agriculture with hopes of someone returning to the farm. For questions or comments, please e-mail Natalie at