I was reading Willa Cather’s wonderful novel, O Pioneers!, and musing about a world that I have no direct experience of . . . farming. Without such prompts, city folk like me perhaps don’t think much about farming. I fall into lazy notions of a bucolic world where adorable cows get milked (by somebody?) and where people with no worries wear gingham and carry quaint baskets of artfully dirty produce. No daily traffic to negotiate, no cold work cubicles and fluorescent lights, no difficult boss to appease.
Some of this may be true . . . but there are other considerations: nature is probably the worst of arbitrary bosses, there is always more to learn about farming techniques and livestock ownership pretty well nixes vacations. In some areas of Ontario, add a bit more uncertainty: urban sprawl, for example, other kinds of demands on land and of course climate change. Items from The Toronto Star Archive give a sense of changes over the last several decades.
Love of the land: Charles Grubbe and his wife, Ruth, love farming so much they moved to King City to escape the encroachment of Toronto on their lives. Now Grubbe, 70, sees development catching up with him again. The metro shadow is getting too close for comfort, he says. Brian Pickell, Toronto Star Archives (1985)
Janet and Jason, Belgians owned by Lloyd Van Deusen (behind) give their all at the International Plowing Match at Meaford. Dale Brazao: from the Toronto Star Archives (1987)
No Drugs: Carl and Susan Cosack keep their cattle happy during winter in open barns; instead of penning them up and feeding them from troughs. Taking care of the psychological health of animals is part of their natural farming. Dick Loek, Toronto Star Archives (1986)
Queen of the furrow at plowing match near Uxbridge yesterday was ten-year-old Gail McGuckin of Mount Albert. She was the only girl competing in the annual match and, of course, swept the one event reserved for women. Keith Beaty, Toronto Star Archives (1974)
Bringing in the sheaves -- old style -- directing his team from on top of the load. Farmer Hugh Miller takes in barley with help from his nephew, Donald Miller. Keith Beaty, Toronto Star Archives (1975)
Rural skills: Jim Hicks instructs Ingrid Engler in the art of milking. Erin Combs, Toronto Star Archives (1980)
Stubborn as a mule: Arthur Manning of Highgate, east of Chatham, tries to persuade his balky horse Major to get a move on at the opening of the 75th International Plowing Match near Stratford, Ont. The annual event draws hundreds of participants. Dick Loek, Toronto Star Archives (1988)
But it seems there is still scope for silliness . . .
The corn is as high . . . What we have here is either a farmer who really got into his harvesting and now needs bale-ing out. Or it's as corny a joke as you're ever likely to see. Diana Nethercott, Toronto Star Archives (1970)
As we move into the serious eating season . . . a salute to farmers and to learning more about what they do.