Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Truth About Farming: Kieth and Karen Penry

Kieth and Karen Penry

Kieth and Karen Penry

Age: 50 and 46

Most Joyous Moment:

I (Karen) can’t really say that there has been one hardest moment; farming is a hard life. A life that I ran from for many years. A life that my mother cautioned me to avoid. A life that my mother-in-law abandoned as soon as she married. A life that my husband’s grandfather tried to discourage my husband from taking on. And yet, here we are.

We have experienced death and broken machines, spoiled feed, broken fences, and oh so much more. We’ve bought animals with implied promises from customers, only to be left holding on to unsold stock when those promises are broken.

This is my story—as a wife that didn’t really want to go down this road because I knew how hard it would be and also as a wife that loves and supports her husband and believes 100% in the family farm.

Here are some truths about how hard it has been:

The truth is… My family does without before my animals do without.

The truth is… We sell our products to customers before consuming them ourselves.

The truth is… Between the ranch and teaching and homemaking, I feel like I work two full-time jobs and then some.

The truth is… We are often tired, wet, cold (or hot), dusty, dirty, and smelly.

The obvious question is, “Why do you do it?” That answer is as complicated and many faceted as the number of things that can go wrong in one day on the ranch. I do it because I love my husband. I do it because I feel like the earth is a gift from Heavenly Father and we need to manage it responsibly. I feel a responsibility to protect the earth and give back to nature. I feel like learning to live sustainably and sharing my story is my calling. I do it to preserve the family farm. I do it because it is the right thing to do.

The truth is… we are doing the best we can to be true to our beliefs while trying to stay afloat.

The truth is… We do get discouraged. There have been many times when we have thrown up our hands, ready to quit. Luckily, most times one of us is up when the other is down.

The truth is… We will never give up. We believe in what we are doing. We hold tight to our faith and to little moments of joy–like the joy I felt yesterday when I saw not one, but two herd of deer grazing on the side of the road as I was driving to work. Joy, faith, a desire to do the right thing; those are the things that sustain us. Sometimes, it is all we have. Sometimes, I pray with all my might that it is enough.

Most disappointing moment.

Our most joyous moment was buying our own, albeit small, family farm. After spending 14 years living in town and working on another property, we were finally able to buy 40 acres. There are so many times when we walk outdoors–winter, spring, summer, and fall–and breathe in the fresh air with a smile on our face. We say to each other and ourselves, “This is it. We own this. We are living our dream.” Our life is hard every single day, but we are so grateful for the opportunity to be here. We love this hard life!

Resurrection! Hands of a Farmer is Back.

Resurrection:

1. Rising from the dead.

2. The rising of Christ from death after his burial. From the early latin, to rise again.

As Brandon and I prepared for Easter this year with our families we had been focusing on our jobs and lives away from HandsOfAFarmer.  We were content with the fact that, due to our busy schedules, our dream of telling the story of American agriculture through the hands of a farmer had died.  Over the past two years we have yearned to start again, to bring back from the ashes the blog which once inspired us and many of you to believe in the American farmer and rancher again.  But our lives were so busy. Brandon had embarked on a new career in the oil and gas industry. I had moved to a new town and was trying to rebuild a FFA chapter and we both were having kids and it appeared as if the final resting place of this blog would be somewhere in cyberspace.  We still got the occasional comment about the blog or question, “Whatever happened to that blog you guys did?”  But things all changed a week ago.

We were approached by one of Brandon’s former students, Tyler McCoy.  Tyler is an Ag Ed major at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Tx (which just so happens to be where Jeff teaches high school agriculture).  Tyler had a brilliant idea for our first post back; a resurrection of Hands of a Farmer to coincide with Easter and the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the homecoming of one of the leaders of agriculture science in the United States.  Sort of a cool coincidence.  Tyler has decided not to tell his own story just yet since he is young and still writing it.  Instead, he will tell the story of one of his personal mentors and heroes in agriculture. With that I will turn this post over to Tyler.

Should you have any other stories you would like told, please let us know!

The HandsOfAFamer Gang!

Dr. Dean Hawkins

Featured Hands: Dr. Dean Hawkins. (As told by Tyler McCoy)

A Farmer: a person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials.

The word farmer is a noun that could be one of the most meaningful words to some, a title for others, a stereotype, a hero, or just what you call the old man that lives down that old county road outside of town. It is a word that means different things to every person, every culture, and every generation.

Isn’t it crazy how a word as simple as “farmer” have so many meanings and be so opinionated as to the meaning, but in all reality have one simple meaning? It is a person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials. The term is so broad, but has been given such a narrow perspective by most. The term can be that old man that lives down the county road, it can be a title of a person, it can be a stereotype given by judgmental eyes, it can be the most meaningful word to others, but it can be so much more. There is very good possibility that you are a farmer without even knowing it, just by simply buying that live herb from the grocery store to use as needed for cooking, or even watering the grass in your yard. This simplest everyday practices would qualify you as a farmer, your growing herbs to flavor your dishes, and growing the grass to feed wildlife. A person can live in a packed suburb with a gap of only 5 feet between their home and the next, and by definition would be considered a farmer.

I have been blessed the past few years to work with a person whom I believe a farmer. No, he doesn’t live down that old county road. He doesn’t grow any crops or fibers, and besides the occasional show pig his daughters are raising he doesn’t raise any livestock.  Though by definition he is a farmer, one that is truly paving the way for the future by planting a different kind of seed then any would ever imagine. This seed is a very special seed. It is a seed that he does not have to water or needs soil. A seed that produces growth that is un-measurable, and will grow for a lifetime. What he is planting is called the seed of knowledge, and every year he and his department plant it in a very special place that no other farmer has access to. He plants this seed in the future.

To raise living organisms for food or other raw materials, again this is the definition of a farmer. So how does this man qualify as a farmer? This man is a farmer because he is planting knowledge, he is planting education in the minds of hundreds of young men and women every year. He is planting this seed in the future; he is planting this seed in students. These students are the most essential crop in our world. Students whom will be future leaders of our country, future scientist that make life changing discoveries, future producers of food and fiber, and countless other aspects that make our daily lives possible.

Dr. Dean Hawkins is the Department Head of Agriculture Sciences at West Texas A&M University. He and his team have taken the oath that less than 1% of all the people on the earth have. They have taken the oath to grow, educate, and nurture students. While educators are not exactly what most people think of when you hear the word farmer, they in fact are. Humans are living organisms, and Dean is the best of the best at growing them. He grows students that you could call raw material, because they will inevitably be repurposed upon gradation of college. These raw materials may become producers of food and fibers, the may discover the cure for cancer or how to end world hunger. No matter, they will be repurposed into a usable product this is crucial for every human’s life. Life that will soon be exceeding 9 billion in world population, life that will need medical advancements, life that will need to be feed and sheltered, life that Hawkins is preparing his students for.

While being an educator is not at the top of most peoples career list, Hawkins chose to follow this path. A path that has affected thousands, and a path that people are very grateful he chose.

While cultivating the minds of these young people and fertilizing the future of our world, Hawkins has been busy in other aspects as well. He is a leader in the ground- breaking study that may increase the quality of beef for the rest of our lives; he is spreading the word of the importance of agriculture, and being a hero for many.

As many of you may know, Dr. Hawkins found out in early January of 2015 that he had a cancerous brain tumor the size of an avocado.

This reality check would have been devastating to most, but not for this farmer. He continued to push forward and ensure that his crop continued to grow. He may not have been at his field, but he was still calling the shots. Many would not have done this, and some do not understand how or why he did, but if you ask him he a very simple answer. It is what god wants him to be doing. He truly handed over the wheel to the lord and let him steer him in the battle, and together they came out victorious! Hawkins had little effects from the battle and has recently even returned to the farm. He could not wait to get back to his projects and to his most valuable crops, his students.

He gave all of the power to the lord, and it is incredible to see his healing powers in action.

Paul Harvey wrote a poem call “So god made a farmer”, and there is a line that truly speaks of Dr. Hawkins. It is a powerful bit of diction that says “And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.”” So God made a farmer.”” This could not more accurately resemble the reason that god put Dr. Hawkins on this earth. God made him to plant this precious seed, no matter the cost.

Dean has a strong relationship with the lord, and he knew his work was not yet done, he knew that more seeds were to be planted, and more minds needed cultivating. He gave god the wheel of the tractor while he hopped off to get his hands dirty in the production of the future. He has dirty hands, but a clean soul. He is a hero, a leader, a mentor, and above all he is a farmer.

I would like to express me deepest gratitude for reading this article. While Hands of a Farmer has not been very active the past few months, I hope that this story will get you excited about not only the celebration of the resurrection of  our lord but of this blog. I appreciate you and would ask you to keep Dr. Hawkins and his family in your prayers today as you celebrate Easter with your family, because his battle is not yet over and he still has work to be done.

Thank you and have a blessed Easter,

Tyler McCoy

#dirtyhandscleansoul

Jeremiah 3:15

“Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.”

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