By Leigh Ann Maurath on June 4, 2020
5 Lessons I Learned From My Farm Dad
I think this is where it all started--clad in denim and a frilly bonnet, sitting in my dad’s arms as we cut wheat. I grew up watching my dad farm. It’s always been part of who we are.
I grew up on our family’s fourth-generation farm. We’ve always grown corn, wheat, sunflowers and soybeans. My favorite though, is our cattle herd. Our childhood revolved around the weather and seasons. If it rained, we would go to the lake because the ground was too wet to work. We never traveled in the fall because that’s when we picked corn. We might go days in the spring without seeing my dad because that’s when he was busy planting. I didn’t know it then, but quickly realized in college, “farmer’s daughter” was my favorite title.
At Kansas State University, I studied agricultural communications and journalism and bible and leadership studies at Manhattan Christian College through its dual degree program. I recognized there, that sharing the story of the work of farmers and ranchers is deeply important to me.
After a recent opportunity to return home, I am a proud northwest Kansas resident again and have the opportunity through my job to share the story of agriculture every day. As a perk, I now call my parents “neighbors.” My mom, Julie, and my dad, Kurt, still farm and ranch, and I help when I can. We still don’t travel in the fall. And spring is the busiest time of year.
Now, more than ever, I’m so thankful for all I learned from my farm dad. And each Father's Day, I reflect on the last year.
One more year of talks around the supper table. One more year to learn how much he loves others. One more year to watch him care for our land. One more year to see the ways he serves our neighbors. One more year to listen to the prayers he prays over our family. One more year of hugs and "I got your back" texts. One more year of pickup rides and laughter. One more year of farm talk, cattle stories and harvest reports. One more year of crazy projects and dad jokes.
1. Pause for the little things.
He paused everything for a moment when I asked for a picture. I wanted to capture a snapshot of my day and my hero. The sun was hot, but the tractor cab was so nice. The sky open. This field was slow moving. The radios cut in and out. I was somehow covered in dirt and my hat became a little more worn. My face hadn't seen makeup in days and my ponytail was a new normal. I listened to my dad lead and saw him work hard day after day, sunrise to sunset. That morning I rode in the pickup as we fueled up equipment and prepped for the day. With each hour driving the grain cart next to him, my pride for our farm and family grew. His strong hands, positive attitude and steadiness kept the harvest running smooth. I cherish this photo more than most, because he paused for the littlest thing on the busiest day. And now, I’m reminded how important it is to pause for the people in my world. To celebrate little victories. And be intentional with my time. I’ve learned that even when the to-do list is long (because let’s be honest, the work on a farm is never done), people still matter more. We pause for harvest meals in the field. We pause for church and family lunch on Sundays. We pause for birthday parties and special occasions. My farmer dad pauses for people and I love that.
2. Have enormous faith.
I wish everyone could experience harvest. Especially with the Maurath crew. Feel the excitement. The power behind the machines. The teamwork. And see my dad in his element. Like a kid before Christmas. Only covered in dirt, hot and tired. My dad has taught me what having faith means. Each spring and fall he plants thousands of acres and has faith we’ll get the rain we need to make it to harvest. I spent $10 on cut-flower seeds this spring. Only $10. And when I placed them in that dirt, it seemed so silly to plan on beautiful bouquets by the end of the summer. And yet, each season, my dad relies on the land and science as he anxiously awaits his corn to pop up in rows. He has faith. He knows his job is so much more than an income. He produces the food, fiber and fuel in this world and does so with enormous faith.
3. Leave things better than you found them.
Farmers would never admit it (because they are humble people) but they are the real MVPs of sustainability and dedication. I’ve learned from my dad to have a hunger for knowledge and how important it is to do what it takes to be the best in my field (pun intended). My dad attends educational meetings, researches different approaches to farming and listens to what others have learned (he could talk farming for hours without taking a breath). I’ve learned in order to make the world a better place, we cannot be complacent. We must always look for ways to leave the land and those around us better than we found it (even if that takes a little extra learning in the process).
4. Serve others.
My farm dad is the definition of a servant. This weekend, he ate s’mores around my fire pit, by the garden boxes he helped me build, under the lights he helped me hang, in the house he helped me move into, in the town that’s filled with neighbors he’s also served. I’ve spent my whole life catching up on stories about the way he serves others. I say catching up, because I often hear from others about how my dad helped them out. I’ve learned that serving others isn’t always easy, but should never be a choice, rather an instinct. When a family in town has a baby or has had a loss or needs a pick me up, my parents bless them with a meal. When neighbors need help finishing up harvest, he pulls his combines into the field. When someone is going through a rough patch and needs a helping hand, my dad invites them to be a part of our farm team for a couple days. My parents use what they have been blessed with, to turn around and bless others.
Through every long day, harvest breakdown, bad storm and low price, this is what passion looks like. (And the harvest game face). I’ve watched my farm dad navigate the hard times and yet, I’ve never doubted he was in it for the long haul. He’s taught me to persevere, to get up when you been knocked down, to stand up for what matters to you and to face uncertainty with determination and grace.
Living in western Kansas has only intensified my love for the farm, and the farmer who leads it so well. I'm so proud to be a farmer’s daughter.
Thank you for protecting, providing and caring so well for me and our family. You're my hero. You're loved. And you're respected. For each tear you've wiped, the smiles you've caused, the prayers you've prayed and the lessons you've taught. Thank you. I am forever grateful. Happy Father’s Day!