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WRITE TEAM: The other crops we're growing

As we plunge over the brink into another growing season, full of bright promise and unknown risks, hopes for bountiful harvest and fears of failure, I am more and more aware that the produce of our land and livestock of our pastures are not the only crops we’re raising.

For example, an elderly reader speaks fondly of her favorite aunt, who used to take her on walks exploring the woods and meadows.  

“She always had time for us,” she remembers warmly. That dear aunt was nurturing seeds of lasting importance in the time she spent with the children in her life.

Another friend remembers precious summer afternoons outside collecting butterflies with her young son instead of keeping up with her housework. She saw the worth of letting go of mundane duties enough to capture some timeless moments.

I heard of a farmer who let his boys take a break in the hayfield for a quick game of catch. When another farmer asked if he wasn’t worried about getting the hay baled before it rained, he responded, 

“I’m raising boys, too, you know.”

(I expect he found that the boys were more enthused about their work when they weren’t driven constantly.)

My own dear husband was not known for being the farmer most caught up with his tasks at hand. But somehow the time he invested in his children, doing projects and having fun together, has borne ample fruit in their lives. He also included them in his work, which of course made the tasks take longer when they were small, but then they picked up how to labor hard AND value time with family.  

One spring afternoon he made them a tiny, home-made wooden windmill and mounted it on a post in the front yard. Another time he delighted the two-year-old by bringing a nice, soft, rotten board onto the porch for the tot to practice hammering nails into.

“Never mind the mess,” hubby comforted me, as I fretted about how to clean up after them while I had a newborn baby. 

Another time there was the quick trip to the basement for some scrap wood to make a marble game, which still is a favorite of the children that come to my house. One of my adult sons commented that the time invested in that project has paid off many times over.

Setting fence posts became a soil science experiment. The little boys liked to get down in the hole, while being cautioned not to knock the dirt back in. Once they even collected clay from the bottom and fashioned a duck.

Digging holes to plant apple trees and cherry bushes is another happy memory, which still literally bears fruit for us.

These are stand-out moments, priceless cameos of experience out-weighing the lackluster balance sheet unimpressive to the bankers at the time.

And what about you? Who planted and watered seeds of companionship and appreciation as you were growing up? Are there children of any age in your life that might warm to some time spent together this summer?

Shall we pause together to truly see and cultivate what is growing in our midst?

WINIFRED HOFFMAN, of Earlville, is a farmer, breeder of dual-purpose cattle and a student of life. She can be reached by emailing

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