True farmers look the part. Typically, that includes cowboy hats and boots. Sure, occasionally, they may show up in jorts and ballcaps advertising sale barns. But any respectable farmer knows a tank top is questionable, and open toe shoes are a sin.
My dad, partial to jorts and fondly referred to as “the farmer”, used his degree in agriculture to work in an office before retirement returned him full-time to the farm he and I were raised on. It’s no surprise that in Chaco’s and running shorts, he doesn’t take me very seriously. Admittedly, my wardrobe choices aren’t very practical; the women in my life prioritized shopping over farming.
I’m the smallest and the youngest of my generation—the only female. My farm lessons were gained through observation spending my days watching my grandma as she fulfilled the roles of family and farm, all while dragging me around behind her in a wagon.
In junior high, I spent a few summers stomping the tractor clutch with both feet while my family picked corn and threw it into the trailer to sell. But mostly, my farming experience consisted of sitting under a shade tree, book in hand, while watching my grandmother tend her land.
After college, I began my career as an English teacher, never considering a life on the farm. I’ve always been rather fond of air conditioning, and farming it seems, is weather dependent. And teaching, naturally, comes with summers off. Originally, those summers involved beaches, pools, and tan lines, but my heart had different plans. A farm raising is hard to ignore, and the choice as an adult to build our family home in the middle of the land didn’t make it any easier to look away.
As the summer breaks have accumulated, so have my farming skills. What started out as holding wrenches has evolved into proficient tractor driving and hay hauling. Sure, I may break things when the farmer is out of town, as any good farmhand does, but the local John Deere parts department stays impressed with my ability to provide exact part numbers. Reading an instruction manual for a tractor is not for the faint of heart, but my English degree provides immediate help when something needs to be fixed before anyone notices.
While I never spent my time as a kid learning about tractor hydraulics or how to repair hay balers, sheer proximity allowed me to understand how a big rain impacts harvesting. I learned at an early age that waking up early to work cattle pays in sausage biscuits. I internalized just enough to know that I enjoy working outside.
I also know that the wrench I use probably needs a pipe stuck through the end for torque, and I’ll likely need to drag a cinder block over to reach the top shelf. My process may be a few steps longer to compensate for my size, but that’s okay. My mind functions a bit differently than my dad’s; the route each takes to get the rake backed onto the tractor isn’t the same, but the end product is, and that’s what matters. My dad may stop and look over my shoulder while I’m threading the belt on a broken mower caused by my own lead foot, but now he’s no longer here for supervision—he’s here for conversation.
I’ve learned that I’m not as partial to a climate-controlled work environment as I once thought I was. The sun feels good on my shoulders. And I’m not afraid to get my sandaled foot a little too close to the heat of the tractor. Farming, for me, has taken time. I’ve always been welcome on the farm, but it has taken time to realize that living on a farm is different than being part of a farm. Time to find my heart’s place and prove myself as a valuable piece—to my family, but even more so, to myself.
Accepting that I’ll never fit the stereotypical mold of a farmer is part of the journey. I still show up in sandals and shorts, breaking the cardinal rules of farming apparel. But what I’ve learned is far greater. For years, watching my grandmother, I thought she worked on the farm because it was her job. I see now that her work was never about profit. Her effort, as matriarch, came from love for her family, a service to her community, and help to a neighbor. I continue to be drawn back to the farm with my father filling her practical roles—finding my place not just in person, but in my heart. While the farmer often reminds me that hard work and a giving heart are not exclusive to a farm, I have found that the farm is exactly where I want to experience them, and maybe there’s a corner left for that professionally organized closet.
Eclectic and evocative soundtrack
Woefully out of place
Exploration sequences feel drawn out
Sarah Easterling is an 8th grade English teacher by trade and a farm girl by association, scheming with her dad to find a way to write more stories and turn the farm into a goldmine. In between teaching and driving a tractor, she lives every southern mom’s dreaming chasing down her 3 kids at baseball fields and tennis courts. Outside of sports seasons and school, the family sells sweet corn on their farm in Northwest Arkansas.