I've lived in Alberta for nearly half of my life now. I've been here since 1998. It's about time I did a little farming. So today, I rode in a combine.
Now, for many of you, this may just be the most boring thing ever. But hear me out! Perhaps, if you've still got a quarter or two left to go, you may want to get a fresh perspective on the mundane task you might be dreading.
I was driving home from my first ever combine experience this evening, just thinking to myself what a treat it truly is to live in this beautiful land. We really do have a bounty at our disposal. I had just come from harvesting some of the last of my garden, washing and bagging carrots, braiding onions to dry, plucking the very last beets from the ground and I was offered the chance to take a ride in a combine.
Well, I hadn't really thought about it before. But yes, I suppose somebody's got to get all of that wheat off the field now, don't they? So I accepted, and hiked my way up the ladder into the (what I'm told is a rather small) combine cab.
My only other experience in or near farm machinery happened to be when I worked at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, where Harvest Days continues to be a flagship event. But I'd never been in a modern piece of farming equipment. It was so tall, the front window so large. It was kind of… fun!
To give you a little perspective on my farming background, I must divulge something a little embarrassing. I'm a pretty bright girl. I usually got straight A's in school, and I'm no slouch when it comes to knowing about the world - ok, perhaps not the world, but at least Canada. That is why it's more than a little mortifying to admit that I was around 12 or 13 years old when I learned that farming was a modern-day practice. Until then, I believed that farming was a thing of the past, an old-timey occupation no longer practiced today. Yes, I truly believed that groceries came from Safeway. I wish I were joking.
My only defence is that I grew up in a lumber town in BC, and not among prime farm country. I probably wouldn't have made that mistake had I grown up here in Alberta.
Fortunately, I was eventually educated. In fact, my time at the museum helped me gain an in-depth appreciation for farming and how far our technology has come. I remember taking part in thrashing demonstrations, where I could show how to separate wheat from chaff using only a flail and my own muscle, like they did in the very early days. Then came the winnowing machine, hand-cranked for your convenience.
Thrashing machines were next. According to Wikipedia, "this process took much of the drudgery out of farm labour." And now, most farmers just have to drive. They drive their combines up and down the windrows. Up and down and up and down, into the wee hours just to get the harvest in.
But it's just driving. It's a completely different kind of work than it was years ago. it's a completely different kind of taxation - more mental than physical, although there is still plenty of physical work to go around in farming.
Many farmers nowadays do this on top of their other jobs. Kudos to you, the hard-working men and women who continue to build this province and nourish its people. Us city slickers really need to acknowledge your efforts. Unless we have the opportunity to ride along, like I did today, we'd have no idea just how much work goes in to food production. It's hard, dirty, sometimes tedious. But you farmers do it year after year, through good harvests and poor, you're reliable.
So the next time you're out harvesting, just image what it may have been like, how painful and tedious it might have been 50, 75, 100 years ago. And imagine too what farming may look like 50, 75, 100 years from now. Perhaps we'll simply 'beam' the grain right from inside its husk - leaving the stalk and all still in the field! Now wouldn't that be a delightful harvest? I'll go work on inventing that.
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