Words by - Tyler Land
I always get excited when Labor Day Weekend rolls around, and it’s not for the reason you might expect. Sure, a long weekend is always nice and welcomed, but to Tri-State area farmers, Labor Day Weekend usually signifies the start of the peanut harvest. If farmers around here aren’t starting to dig or pick peanuts at some point during Labor Day weekend (or on Labor Day), it’s not long after.
For those of you that don’t know, farming is not my primary source of income. I’m just a hired hand during the busy times of the year and the bulk of my help centers around the peanut crop. At my “real job,” I am a practicing attorney. Yep, I have an office job. The reasons for that are a story for another time. I help on the farm because I enjoy the work and the extra money. I played with tractors as a child and now I play with bigger, and more expensive ones. Some of my colleagues think I’m crazy for doing it. Yes, it’s hot, dirty, and at times frustrating, but I love it and they don’t understand the passion and connection. And that’s ok.
Peanut harvest is without a doubt my favorite time of year. I wouldn’t trade any of the long hours I’ve spent in peanut fields during my life thus far for all of the riches in the world. Life just looks a little better from atop a loaded peanut wagon. Something about the way the dust hangs in the air late in the evening as the sun sets creates a one-of-a-kind beauty that few see or appreciate.
Even as a little kid, peanut harvest was my favorite time of year. It’s when you get to use all the cool equipment (peanut pickers, etc.). And for whatever reason, it’s just more fun than planting or any other time. As a small child, I rode countless acres on the armrest with my father during peanut season. I’m sure untold numbers of other farm kids understand all of that.
Peanut harvest is also my father’s favorite time of year. It is one of the things we share. He is a simple and stern man of few emotions. He speaks about them even less. A man who is as tough as the times he has weathered. I suppose, for better or worse, it is a mark of his generation. Despite his often times austere exterior, his demeanor completely changes when he climbs in the cab and makes that first round in the first peanut field every year. He is finally at the part of the year where is doing what makes him so very happy. And although he can be quite cantankerous when things aren’t going just like he wants them to, like starting to pick at 12:01 p.m. instead of 12:00 p.m., it still thrills my heart every year to watch him do what he loves, indeed, what I believe he was placed on this earth to do.
I love to hear him and my grandfather talk about peanut harvests in years gone by. How things have changed and are done differently now. I never knew my great grandfather, but I am told he was an excellent peanut farmer and enjoyed quite the reputation in the Graceville area in his day. He was even featured in a farming magazine once and we have the clippings to prove it. Given all of that, I suppose my love for peanut harvest time is perhaps hereditary.
There are two things I am thankful for at this juncture in my life. The first is the ability to take an active part and contribute to the harvest instead of being a spectator like I was when I was little kid. Granted, while I don’t have the glamorous job of running a picker, my designated grunt work tasks of shuffling and leveling wagons (hopefully one day we’ll graduate to loading semis like some of the other farmers around here) bring their own degree of satisfaction and are nonetheless a necessary cog in the larger process. Second, I am glad to now be experiencing harvest every year for myself. In the future when I look back, I won’t have to rely on the stories told by my dad and others. I can look back on my own memories because I was there and experienced it firsthand. And boy do I have some memories that I will forever treasure, both good and bad.
So, parents, take your kids to the field. Ride them in the cab. Sure, it might be inconvenient at times, but you may never know the impact it will have on their life and the wonderful memories and experiences it could give them—and you. I’m proof of that. They’re only children once and for a short time. Make the most of the time you have, while you have it. Until next time, farm on, farm hard, and keep in between the field rows.