I WAS thinking back to one of those rare summers when we had lots of rain, pigs in outdoor lots and several mismatched rubber boots because the mates were buried in mud holes. It was nasty.
Drinking coffee one morning after yet another deluge, the mood at the kitchen table was a little glum — until the doorbell rang. Joe's smiling, happy, nine-year-old face stood there in his boots and cap ready to do chores. If someone would have been singing "dance around if you love this farming thing you do," Joe would have been on it in a minute.
A video parody posted on YouTube by farmer Derek Klingenberg based on the Pharrell Williams song "Happy" is a brilliant example of the enthusiasm of farmers and ranchers around the world.
When I shared the video with a few of my urban friends, no one asked if the crops being planted were biotech free or how the animals were being housed. Their questions, instead, were: Why did the farmer produce this video? How did he get farmers from the different countries to participate — and why were so many of them compelled to take selfies with cows?
We must have viewed the video six or seven times. Each time, their responses showed that efforts made by those like Klingenberg, the Peterson brothers and others who promote agriculture really do work.
With the "Happy" tune stuck in my head, I was smiling at how my urban friends proved that the video accomplishes more than just connecting consumers to farmers; it also gives farmers a chance celebrate what they do.
Those of us who grew up on a farm know that the entire family is focused on the task of the day; whether planting corn, checking cows, harvesting beans or baling hay, everyone is involved. Even on those wet mornings when the layer of mud on the feeding floor goes over your feet, it can be fun.
Joe was the kind of kid who really liked everything about the farm. If I could not find him, he was most likely scratching a pig behind the ears or following a mother cat to her litter of kittens.
There was only one job he did not like: cleaning out the outdoor automatic hog waterer. After explaining at least every other day how important fresh water is to keeping pigs healthy, we sat down on a bale of straw to discuss the situation.
The truth came out that the mud on his clothes and boots and even falling down in the mess on the feeding floors didn't bother him, but he thought that mixture of mud, water and feed at the bottom of the hog waterer was nasty.
We brainstormed and agreed that we needed a hog waterer hook. I was a little skeptical, knowing that most days we would be looking for the hook for longer than if we just reached in pulled out the scraper. Together, we made what Joe called an automatic hog waterer-cleaning device.
The next morning, when he reached into the water with his hook, he grinned from ear to ear because it worked. Not saying a word, I moved on to feeding the sows. I was feeding pigs, he was feeding pigs and that day we both loved playing in the mud. It was part of that farming thing we did.
A friend mentioned that the children in the Klingenberg video seemed to be having fun, but one lady noticed that they were allowed to drive tractors and play around big equipment. I pointed out that adults were present, and if they paid close attention, the machines were not running.
When she still believed the children were at risk, I asked if her boy had ever sat behind the wheel of their van to pretend he was driving. Another friend said his son did and has learned how to honk the horn and shake his fist appropriately.
We talked about how, as adults, we have a responsibility to set good examples and protect kids both in the country and in the city. There really are a lot of similarities between feeding cows and rush-hour traffic: Both tasks are best accomplished without a cell phone in hand, and sometimes you need to honk the horn.
One of my favorite messages in the video is that "the farm boys and all the farm girls are the future farmers of the world."
One guy told me, "You farmers are lucky you get to help train the next generation."
It is hard to argue that point, even on the days when the mud goes over your shoes and you have to scrape the nasty stuff from the bottom of a hog waterer.
I had to smile watching Carter, one of my young neighbors, test driving all the tractors in the line, recalling the days when his dad, another young man who worked with me in the hog barn, let me know that power washing was nasty. He understood why it was important because he was born a livestock farmer. His parents let him help around the farm, just like the parents in the YouTube video. Feeding cows was his favorite thing.
Seeing Carter steer and make the appropriate motor sounds, it's so easy to see that another generation is learning how to farm. Thanks to Klingenberg's parody, consumers have another chance to understand farming.
By watching the farmers and their families in the video, another generation will see that they are dedicated and sometimes "dance around because they love this farming thing they do."
*Joy Philippi is a fourth-generation Nebraska farmer and pork producer and partners with her parents in Philippi Farms. She has been active in agricultural advocacy for many years and is a former president of the National Pork Producers Council and Nebraska Pork Producers Assn. and a past board member of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.