$768 million. That was the size of the Powerball jackpot earlier this year when we were preparing to enter one of the wettest springs we had experienced as a farm family. I remember my husband asking, “What would you do with that much money?”
My answer came fast and from the gut. “Land. And cows. Maybe a thoroughbred race horse. But definitely more dirt.” Normally, he would push back on the horse part, but apparently $768 million is near the threshold where we could finally “waste” money on a horse.
After the words were out, I found myself surprised at my answer. I grew up in a “normal” family—you know, one that lives in town and parents work Monday–Friday at a job where the work actually stays at work. One of those jobs where you don’t work on evenings and weekends and Columbus Day.
For a long time, I was like a lot of Americans. I thought work was to earn money. Eventually, by working hard and saving money, you would have enough to be successful. And once you were successful, you would quit work and move on to enjoy all the things in life you’d worked so hard for.
So, back to that Powerball jackpot. $768 million. In my pre-farm life, that would have fast-forwarded me through the work stage right to success and thus onto enjoyment. A “normal” answer to his question might have been, “I’d quit my job and travel the world. I would buy an island for all our friends and family to visit. And, obviously, a thoroughbred race horse.”
But that wasn’t my answer. Instead, my answer, which came so swiftly and from somewhere deep inside, was to use that huge sum of money to literally buy more work. Something had changed inside me—I’d lost my mind.
This farming world, a world measured in seasons and acres instead of weeks and months, had completely changed my definition of success. Success is no longer a box that I can check somewhere near retirement age. Suddenly, idleness doesn’t feel like success at all.
Some years, success is the ability to increase our work—higher yields, bigger margins, more dirt. Sometimes, like right now, success is hanging on to the work we already have. Surviving planting to get to harvest. Surviving harvest to get to planting.
Success in this lifestyle is not a beach and a drink with an empty to-do list. (Although we do appreciate those weeks a whole lot and would likely skip taking them if NuTech didn’t force us to the islands!) Success isn’t the culmination of work. It’s the continuation of it. From season to season, year to year, generation to generation. Success is the ability to get up and go to work again and again and again and ultimately, sustain that work so that our kids and grandkids can come back and work, too.
Maybe it’s because farm people have worked so long they don’t know any different. Maybe it’s because farm people understand that human beings were created for work and are meant to continue it up until they physically cannot. Whatever the reason, farm people seem to understand that success and enjoyment are found within work, not at the completion of it. Farm kids seem to get this too—that’s why so many of them show up to work at age 5 and never leave.
They say farming is in people’s blood. I guess it must be contagious, because my answer to the lottery question, “Land and cows,” was a real farmer answer. Instead of opting for a life of oceans and sun and ease, I opted for the road last traveled. To be specific, the gravel road—where we own everything on both sides as far as the eye can see and we are set for an eternity of being behind on planting, spraying, harvest and fence-building. And of course, taking the first weekend off in May to go watch my horse run for the roses.
Kate is a farm wife, mom and blogger.
Find her Uptown Girl blog at: uptownsheep.com/uptown-girl—a-working-farm-wifes-blog