Farm Horizons, Aug. 2018

City girl gone country

By Starrla Cray

Sarah Schmidt never thought she’d marry a farmer. In fact, she’d sworn off all farmers as potential boyfriends – much less husbands.

That is, until she met a man named Gordy.

“Gordy was always very up front with me about farming,” Schmidt recalled. “Three days into our relationship – not dates, days – he said, ‘consider farming as a way of life or we’re not going to work.’”

Schmidt’s response was “Sure!”

By that time, Gordy had eased Schmidt’s fear of farming – especially her fear of having a farm with “scary chickens.”

Schmidt’s aversion to chickens stemmed from an experience she had growing up in southern Wisconsin. As the daughter of a pastor, she would often accompany her dad to home visits. One of those homes had “crazy, squawking chickens” she had to avoid on the sidewalk.

“I don’t know what was louder, my screaming or the chickens,” she recalled.

But the terrifying journey up the sidewalk was worth it, because dessert at that house was huge “appetite-wrecking” candy bars for dessert. Schmidt and her sister would look forward to the end of devotions, eagerly awaiting the treats in the pantry.

Becoming a farmer’s wife

Although Schmidt had decided that she was OK with marrying a farmer, the transition definitely took her out of her comfort zone.

The first challenge was finding a wedding date. As a farmer, Gordy was busy with field work during the warmer months. Schmidt’s dad, as a pastor, had an almost opposite schedule, with the busiest times starting around Thanksgiving and going through the Easter season.

The family eventually managed to find a weekend that worked for both lifestyles, and Schmidt’s dad presided over the wedding.

Later on, the newlyweds moved to a farm near Gaylord.

“The first thing I saw on that farm was a chicken,” Schmidt said. Fortunately, the chicken was “old enough to vote” and wasn’t a threat.

Life on a farm took some getting used to for Schmidt. For instance, she had to learn the names of all the tractors and machinery – and how to operate them.

Getting directions was also interesting.

“I was honestly told when I moved out there, ‘turn where the old oak tree used to be,’” Schmidt recalled.

Speaking in McLeod County and beyond

Schmidt shared these experiences and much more during a Farm(her) to Farm(her) workshop at the McLeod Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) shed in Glencoe June 28. The workshop was organized by the McLeod SWCD office, in partnership with the McLeod County Farm Service Agency.

This was the first workshop of its kind, and organizers hope to make it an annual event. The day included door prizes from sponsors and a catered lunch.

In addition to Schmidt, the schedule featured two other speakers:

• Ana Heck from the University of Minnesota Bee Squad discussed ways to promote the conservation, health, and diversity of the bee pollinators. Heck learned how to keep bees in Nicaragua while apprenticing on an organic farm and working with a women’s beekeeping cooperative.

• Beth Markhart of Prairie Restorations Inc. continued the discussion about pollinators, teaching the audience how to promote pollinators, and how to build their own butterfly garden. Markhart has a bachelor’s degree in plant ecology, and a master’s degree in plant physiology.

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