Tag Archive: Farming

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Please check out Wendell Berry’s books in our bookstore. While Berry is a liberal theist, I find that his writing deeply resonates with me and has had a profound effect on my life.

Feral Barn Cats Part Two

Last week, I asked my son and daughter-in-law if I could photograph the feral cats that reside in their barn. After giving me a quizzical look that said why?, they told me I could, but warned me that I would find it hard to get close enough to the cats to photograph them.  Sufficiently warned, I went to the barn, camera and flash in hand and took the following photographs. I hope you enjoy them.

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What follows is not a new cat breed. My daughter-in-law told me these two chickens are quite old.

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chickens

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Part One

Feral Barn Cats Part One

Last week, I asked my son and daughter-in-law if I could photograph the feral cats that reside in their barn. After giving me a quizzical look that said why?, they told me I could, but warned me that I would find it hard to get close enough to the cats to photograph them.  Sufficiently warned, I went to the barn, camera and flash in hand and took the following photographs. I hope you enjoy them.

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Part Two

A Personal Reflection: The Rhythm of Life

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Cicadas sing their early evening song and crickets add their chirp, reminding all who stop to listen that summer is almost over.

Farmers wrap up baling straw and hay; soon they will harvest corn and beans. As in every other year of my 58-year existence, I am reminded by the harvest that fall has arrived.

The baseball season winds down and soon football will vie for my attention. The Reds won’t make the playoffs. Will this be the year the Bengals win a playoff game?

The garden soon will be spent. The sunflowers are beginning to seed, offering a sumptuous meal to birds that frequent the yard. The Indian corn stalks have ears. Once dry, they will provide colorful decoration for Halloween.

Apples are starting to turn red. Last year, a freeze killed all the blooms, but this year there should be plenty of applesauce to can, a fact the grandchildren will certainly appreciate.

The last cabbages are shredded, and put into brine which will yield sauerkraut in a few weeks. A pungent odor wafts through the kitchen, one that is endured for the sake of hot dogs and spareribs.

The pumpkins are turning orange, and come Thanksgiving, the queen of the kitchen will turn their meat into pie. What possibly could be better than a pumpkin pie heaped with whipped cream and family gathered around the table, grateful for the lives they share with one another.

Summer flowers start to die and drop their seeds, while mums begin to flower, offering the year a last splash of color before the cold temperatures of winter claim their beauty.

Where has time gone, I ask myself. It seems the days pass so quickly now. Didn’t we just celebrate Christmas?

Life is short, I remind myself. Enjoy the rhythm of changing seasons and let them be a reminder that no one is promised tomorrow.

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From Farm to Table: Where Our Burgers and Steaks Come From

Most Americans are completely disconnected from the source of their daily sustenance. In the 1950’s, the decade of my birth, 12.6% of the American work force consisted of farmers. In 1900, 38% of American workers worked on a farm. Today, only 2% of American families operate a farm or a ranch. Small family farms have become a relic of a bygone era as major corporations and large acreage farmers dominate farming. Our food supply is increasingly in the hands of multinational corporation who care only about the bottom line. Years ago, a farmer in the church I was pastoring at the time told me that the on-hand American food supply was dwindling, and that it would only take one nationwide crops failure for Americans to find themselves starving. Disconnected from where food really comes from, Americans go to the grocery thinking that there will always be a ready supply of eats.

Ask the average child raised in the city or the suburbs where hamburger comes from and they will likely say the supermarket. Even here in the rural heartland, children are increasingly ignorant about where their food comes from.  Our supply of meat is controlled by a few multinational corporations and large concentrated animal feeding operations (factory farms) These farms hide from public view the horror that goes on behind closed doors. Why is it factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses never offer tours of their facilities? I would think they would want everyone to know where their food comes from.  For most Americans, all it would take is one tour to turn them into vegetarians.

I have spent most of my life in farm country. Though my Dad wasn’t a farmer, we lived in many a farm-house and often visited the farming operations of my Dad’s brother and brother-in-law. At an early age I learned where food came from. Knowing what I know, I have struggled for years with eating meat. Knowing what goes on in factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses, I often find myself sickened by the very thought of eating a burger or streak. Yet, in time, my guilt will assuage and off to Fort Wayne I’ll go with Polly to eat a steak at Texas Roadhouse. This is one area where I deliberately ignore what I know to be true, going against my moral and ethical values. I know what I SHOULD do, but my craving for meat almost always wins the battle between desire and morality.

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My Hungarian Grandparents, Paul and Mary Gerencser

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Paul and Mary Gerencser and Children, 1950s

The Gerencser Family, circa 1950s Front: Robert (my Dad) and Irene Middle: Grandpa Paul Rear: Paul (Paulie), Grandma Mary, Mary, and Helen

My grandparents immigrated from Hungary in the early part of the 20th century.  I don’t know much about them. I was six years old when they died in 1963. Paul was born in 1888 and died of a heart attack in February of 1963. Mary, six years younger than her husband, died of a heart attack six weeks later.

Paul and Mary Nemett Gerencser (grr IN’ sir or grinsir) immigrated through Ellis Island and settled in Ohio. (I don’t think Paul and Mary were their given names.) I think they originally settled in the Akron/Cleveland area and then moved to  northwest Ohio. Best I can tell from what few official records remain, Paul and Mary Gerencser owned a farm in Defiance County, lost it, and then bought a farm in Williams County on the northwest corner of Williams County Road 14 and Williams-Defiance County Line Road.

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Grandma Mary Gerencser, 1919

Paul and Mary Gerencser had six children: Irene, Paul Jr, Steven, Helen, Mary, and Robert. Steven died in a farming accident as a young boy. Irene died in 2009 at the age of 87. Paul (Paulie) died in 2012 at the age of 88. Robert, my father, died in 1987 at the age of 49. Mary and Helen, both in their 80s, are still living.

The Gerencser homestead was torn down decades ago. The new owners built a ranch home in its place. The old farmhouse was a white two-story structure.  I do remember a few things about the house. There was an enclosed back porch and Grandma kept big sacks of flour and sugar on the porch. I also remember the wood-fired stove. I think there was a water pump at the kitchen sink. The house did not have indoor plumbing. There was an outhouse for necessary daily functions.

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Mary, Paulie, Paul, Robert Gerencser, 1940s

I do have a vivid memory of the creek that ran a few hundred yards from the back of the house. One year, Beaver Creek overran its banks and flood waters turned a portion of the low-lying farm ground into a lake. To a little boy the flood water looked like a huge lake but I am sure it was probably much smaller.

I don’t remember anything about my grandparents’ demeanor. I do remember they spoke Hungarian to each other. I don’t know if they spoke English in the home. My father, aunts and uncle, were schooled at the nearby one room school-house that sat on the southeast corner of Williams County Road 14 and  US Highway 6. The one room school-house was torn down many years ago. My dad also went to school at Farmer, Ney, and Bryan. I do not know where any of my aunts or uncle attended school.

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Mary and Robert Gerencser, 1930s

Paul and Mary Gerencser settled in northwest Ohio, Williams County, because a number of Hungarian immigrants already lived here. Derek Harvey, a Toledo, Ohio man, wrote an interesting article about the Hungarians who settled in NW Ohio:

An important immigrant group to Toledo and Northwest Ohio were the people that came from the area in Central Europe known as the Magyars. This area stretched from Poland to the North to Belgrade in the southern region. The area would also encompass the large area known as Transylvania. (No Dracula jokes) With the redrawing of borders after the first World War much would have been considered Hungary would have changed. Many large populations after this time would live in Romania, Slovakia and northern Yugoslavia. Some groups prior to World War 1 would be misidentified as Hungarians.

The largest group of this ethnic group 1.7 million came to the United States starting in 1880. Many would locate in the Birmingham neighborhood in Toledo. In 1900 there were almost 17,000 people living in Ohio that claimed this nationality. By 1920 the number would increase to 73,181. The primary group of immigration was males under the age of 30. Almost 90% of them were literate, but would take dangerous jobs that involved using their hands. This job areas in Toledo included automotive, glass and railroad industries. They tended to only come to the United States temporarily and over 50% would return to their homeland. Many would come back or just stay.

The religion of the Hungarians in Toledo was Catholic. Their home church in town St Stephen’s Catholic Church. The early population of this church was almost all Hungarian. This is a valuable place to check for church records for people of this nationality. The church was the center of their socialization activities. It would later become the center of their fraternal organizations. In Toledo a popular event was the Grape Harvest Festival and the Easter egg sprinkling. These groups and events played a important part of the assimilation of Hungarians into the fabric of Toledo. Family units in Hungarian early life extended beyond the immediate family. It was referred to as the “sib” and included aunts, uncles, cousins and godparents who might not be relatives.

A common practice after 1910 was for Hungarian families to take in recent immigrants primarily males. The husband and the boarders would work outside the home while the women would take care of the chores necessary for maintaining a household. The diet would lean towards meat and very few dairy, fruit or vegetables. Wonderful opportunities exist for more understanding of Hungarians genealogy. Great strides have taken place in many parts of the United States to get a better understanding of this group. There heritages are being preserved and new resources are being discovered daily.

From time to time I will run into local Hungarians who remember my dad or my aunts and uncle. Mary and Helen sang on the radio in the 1940s and every so often someone will ask me if I am related to them. When someone notices my last name and asks me, are you related to ____________, the answer is always yes. All the Gerencsers in northwest Ohio are related to one another. I have second and third cousins in the Chicago, Benton Harbor Michigan, and Akron/Cleveland area whom I have never met. Locally, I have a few first and second cousins.

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Grandma Mary Gerencser with the Family Cat, Pickles.

When my aunt with Alzheimer’s was over at our house last year, she didn’t know who the woman in the picture was but she with delight said, oh there’s my cat Pickles.

I am not certain what my grandparent’s religion was, but I suspect they were Catholics.

I regret not taking time to know my family history while those who could tell it to me were still alive. My dad died 25 years ago and my grandparents died over 50 years ago. Such is the lament of a man growing old. As death comes nearer and nearer to my door, I think more and more about the past. I wonder…what was it like for my dad to grow up on a farm? I will never be able to ask questions like this. Sometimes, when we drive down US 15/127 to Bryan, I gaze off to the left as we pass the Williams-Defiance County Line. I try to picture my grandparents, my dad, and my aunts and uncle, working the ground and taking care of the farm. I wonder about their hardships, about the hard work it took to eek out a living from the flat land of Williams County Ohio

I have lots of questions…

*dates and ages are approximate. My recollections are not what they once were. One reason for writing this post is to have a written record of these things before I some day can no longer remember them.