By Matt Reese
It was getting late when my phone rang. It had been a rough day.
I didn’t know the number, but I answered anyway.
“Hello,” I said politely, but a little bit upset.
And then what I heard next, I will not ever forget.
“I got your number from a friend. Nope, you’ve never met me.
But I need someone to talk with, if you’d be kind enough to let me.
You see I’m working by myself. I’m out in my shop alone.
And I’m thinkin’ things I shouldn’t think. So I picked up the phone.”
I sort of sputtered to myself. I stood and scratched my head.
“Um, sure, I guess. I’m listening,” was the only thing I said.
He said the toil of generations was everywhere he looked,
From great-grandpa’s toolbox on the shelf to the old stove where grandma cooked.
His family looked to him now, both generations gone and yet to come,
To keep building their tradition upon the land this farmer long called home.
He told me of the time his granddad taught him to cultivate,
How you had to run with care, and hope the rows were straight.
I could hear him smiling, telling how he’d met his wife.
But then he said lately he’d been unkind, amid the stress of life.
He felt he’d lost all his direction. He felt all hope was gone.
He’d just met with the banker. His voice cracked on the phone.
The weather had outdone him he’d sat and thought alone.
With nothing left to leverage he’d defaulted on his loans.
Four generations of his family had farmed and he’d farmed all his life.
But based on the numbers he saw that day, there would not be five.
I could feel the weight upon his shoulders. I could hear his pain.
As he thought about a future, where he could never farm again.
The farm was more than just a 9 to 5. It was a part of him.
And with the farm slipping away, his hope for more had dimmed.
I said, “I sure thank you for calling before you came to any harm.
Because I know you’re just a farmer, but you’re more than just your farm.”
Manager. Laborer. Mechanic. A leader in your church.
Father. Lover. Brother. Let those roles be your worth.
Daddy. Husband. Son. Fixer of things that are broken.
Knower of so much, though words are seldom spoken.
You are so much more than land, and barns and tractors in the shed.
Crops feed us for a year, but generations you have fed.
Everyone sometimes falls short. Everybody fails.
We’re all in this together. Only then can we prevail.
He’s said it had been tough this last few years, his voice filled with alarm.
I said, “I know you’re just a farmer, but you’re more than just your farm.”
I then gave him some phone numbers he promised he would call.
I hung up and dried my eyes. My day wasn’t so bad after all.
Farmers and their families in need of some help can reach out to a mental health provider, visit the Ohio Department of Agriculture #gotyourback resource page at gotyourback.org, call a free, confidential crisis line at 1-800-273-8255, text “4hope” to 741741, or visit go.osu.edu/agcrisis for resources.