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NOTE:  This essay won Honorable Mention in a contest sponsored by Progressive Farmer magazine.

1997  Roger D. Stevens
(As told to Elaine C. Stevens)

Why do I farm? Believe me, I have asked myself that questions hundreds of thousands of times over my lifetime of farming. In addition to the usual setbacks all farmers endure, a near-fatal automobile accident left me permanently handicapped, which sometimes makes  even routine farm chores very difficult for me. So why do I continue to farm?

Certainly not for the income, because I don't believe a small operator like me can earn a living solely by farming any more. I've always said that farming was the only business I know where the operator has to buy all his equipment and supplies at retail, sell his products at wholesale, and still try to make a profit. So, I've dug deep down into the most private places of my heart, and although I'm "just an old farmer" who's not very good with words, I will try to express and share with you some of the reasons why I still farm - reasons that only another farmer will understand.


I love seeing the sun, fiery orange in a cloudless pink dawn, peeping over the horizon far beyond the end of my fields. I love hearing the birds and our big red rooster as they celebrate the coming of the new day with their unique version of "The Awakening Chorus".

I love the smell of the rich, chocolate earth as it is turned after a winter's rest. I love the feel of warm, moist, fertile soil between my fingers, vibrant with the life it gives to the seed I entrust to its care. I relish the feel of soft raindrops on my face after a hot, dry spell, as they cool the air, the earth, and me. I see the long furrows filled with crops I have planted and nurtured, and I am humbled by the knowledge that insignificant me played a small part in the greenness that grows there. I love knowing that somewhere, somehow, I have helped to feed our nation's hungry.

I love being in tune with Mother Nature, knowing where the farm fowl nested this year, counting the eggs as I ride by on my tractor, and watching them hatch and grow into miniatures of their parents. I love the quiet stillness of midnight, with only the twinkling stars above to keep me company as I assist in an untimely and difficult birth. I love the unspoiled innocence of newborn calves as they struggle to collect their wobbly legs beneath them and stand to nurse. I love the smell of their "milk breath". I love the music of the mama cows as they "hum" to their newborns, and the tenderness in their eyes as they welcome their newest offspring. I revel in the sight of our young lambs bucking and cavorting in the crisp, cool spring mornings, high held tails waving an invitation to all their playmates to join in the game. I love the sight of frosty breaths in the air, and the sound of a hundred voices telling me they're glad to see me. I love the gentle "Thank You" I see in all my animals' eyes as I feed them and provide for their needs.

I love the feeling of self-sufficiency and accomplishment that comes with a full grain bin, wrapped rolls of hay waiting by the fence rows, a pantry full of colorful jars of home-raised fruits and vegetables, and a freezer full of meat from our livestock. I love the taste of scrambled eggs that I know came from our hens that we raised from our chickens, and fed with our grain.

I love going to work every day in God's sanctuary, unhampered by fancy clothes or rigid schedules. I love the solitude and personal time that farming provides; time to collect and sort out my thoughts, time to make plans, and time to talk to my Creator and thank Him for granting me the privilege of being a farmer.

I farm for my children, so they may experience this enriching lifestyle that I so cherish, as did my parents, and their parents - a lifestyle that is quickly vanishing. I farm to teach them to embrace Mother Nature, to learn all she has to offer, and to respect all living things. I farm to teach them the value of our natural resources, and why we must protect and preserve them. I farm hoping that one day my children will feel as I do, that a farm life is the most precious and priceless legacy parents can leave their children. I further hope that my children will somehow find a way in our rapidly changing world to preserve this way of life and pass it on to their children, and their children, so that it will not be forgotten. For if they can keep it alive, they will be truly blessed, as I have been, and a part of me will always be with them.

I farm for myself. I farm to satisfy a yearning deep inside me that is more than just a desire - it is a burning hunger that cannot be satisfied by any other means; a longing to be a part of the earth and creation; of life, and death. I farm to fulfill my personal need to make some small contribution to mankind and the preservation of our world. Farming is my tranquilizer - what could be more relaxing than a soft summer breeze playing through your hair as you cultivate a field? It is my physical therapist - stiff muscles relax and aches and pains disappear after a couple of hours of farm work. It is my greatest teacher - in addition to management, conservation, and accounting skills farming has taught me patience, perseverance, humbleness, self-respect, and courage. It is my inspiration - the thought that, God willing, there will be another day, another year, another season, another planting, another harvest - this is what keeps my broken and weary body going. Farming has given me a deep appreciation for things others take for granted - rain, sunshine, food - and most importantly, life itself. Farming is a part of me and I cannot separate myself from it, it's in my blood, my heart, and my very soul. Asking me why I farm is like asking me why I breathe - I can't live without it.



~~ Inquiries Welcomed ~~
Roger & Kathy Stevens
175 Fortson Road
Dothan, Alabama  36305
Phone 334-692-3883 (call after 7:30 p.m. CST)
or email us at


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