02 Sep Why I Farm Roadtrip: Telling the Story of the American Farmer
Natalina Sents is on a journey to tell the story of the American farmer across all 50 states. We catch up with Natalina near the end of her expedition to hear her stories from the road.
As a young woman raised in Iowan farm country, Natalina never thought she could reconcile her love for agriculture and her natural creativity, at least not until she began working for Beck’s “Why I Farm Campaign,” which honors farmers through blogs and photography. After realizing that creativity and agriculture might not be mutually exclusive afterall, she pitched an idea she had to Beck’s to visit farmers in all fifty states and tell the personal stories of the men and women who have made it their livelihood to produce our food. Beck’s agreed to sponsor her, and she hit the road.
Living the Dream
Natalina is living many young people’s dream; out on the open road, discovering herself and her country. It had been her personal goal to visit all 50 states by age 25, and she found a way to accomplish that goal. Although she has only a small handful of states left, Natalina has learned that life doesn’t always go as planned. When asked what advice she would give someone looking to do the same thing she says, “Make sure your priorities are right and take time to get to know yourself. You will learn along the way.”
Lessons from the Road
Natalina was excited to learn about the diversity of agriculture across our nation. She gained a new appreciation for mushroom farmers while visiting New York, and realized she had been taking this tasty fungi for granted. She also learned that farmers are eager to share their experiences with the world. “It is,” in her own words, “a privilege to laugh and cry with these people across the country.” She never anticipated that she could meet someone for the first time, and ten minutes later be well on her way to knowing their life story. Natalina feels an obligation to respect the vulnerability of the emotions these families and individuals have shared with her and remain true to their story.
“It’s not easy to talk about your failures, or when times were tough, or about people who have passed on that were important to you. But,” Natalina reflects, “these people are willing to have those tough conversations for the sake of telling agriculture’s story.”
Natalina apologizes for a subtle display of emotion as she recalls an interview with a farmer named Laura in North Dakota. At one point Natalina questions Laura about her greatest challenges and tribulations as a farmer, and she responds by saying; “Mother Nature is challenging, markets can be challenging, even working with your own family can be challenging. What keeps you from throwing in the towel when times get tough?” Laura walks away for a moment and returns with an 8×10 photo. She says:
“I look at this photo two times a day. This is my grandpa when he was my age. He came back from the war and started our farm with nothing, and by the time he passed on, there was something to pass on to me. But I know the blood, the sweat, the tears, the sacrifice, and the time that took. And I want to be able to tell him when we meet again, when my time as a farmer is over, that I was a good steward too. I want to be able to tell him that I took care of the land, that I knew what it cost, and that I was willing to make those same sacrifices so that my children and grandchildren could have this way of life.”
At the beginning of her journey Natalina thought perhaps she would be ready to settle in with a desk job after all this is over, but… not so much anymore. She has been bit by the travel bug, and although she doesn’t know what’s next for her, she doesn’t think whatever it is will fit inside a cubicle.
Inspired by Natalina’s story? Hitch a ride on her road trip:
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