AS a child growing up on a ranch, I grew accustomed to having a job at an early age.
Instead of having summers off from school to play, summer vacations meant work.
While my peers would come back from vacations talking of Disneyland, oceans and sleep-away camps, I would come back talking of making hay, watching calves being born and riding my horse. Vacations, to my family, meant making an overnight trip to watch our cattle sell.
Depending on the time of year, production agriculture is either busy or incredibly busy. Working in agriculture means being able to adapt and learn many skills. Having multiple skill sets to work with ensures that we always have a job to do, something to fix or someone to teach.
As many people understand, production agriculture is not a nine-to-five, Monday-through-Friday job. Most farmers and ranchers do not take two weeks of vacation; holidays are not acknowledged with a day off, and most don't even notice a weekend as the rest of society knows it.
Between planting, irrigating, haying, calving and the thousands of other chores producers must do, our lifestyle leaves little time for socializing in a manner that people outside of agriculture are accustomed to.
The agricultural lifestyle is hectic at times, because you can't ask the grass to stop growing or the animals to take care of themselves. As the old adage goes, "Make hay while the sun shines" — words most producers live by, because they have no other choice.
Summer is a time when most producers are incredibly busy, and my ranch is no different.
As an adult working in production agriculture, I am reminded of being a child again and having a very different summer from my peers.
Now, though, my friends call for day trips to the city, nights out on the town or afternoons by the pool.
Despite my best efforts to explain that the ranch will not take care of itself, they often feel hurt by my lack of engagement with them. Often, they insinuate that I work too hard, spend too much on the ranch and dedicate too much of myself to the care of plants and animals.
Often, these are the same people who claim to be jealous of my "simple life on the ranch."
I have realized that, when viewed from the outside looking in, the lives of people in agriculture can look simple. Often, we work for our family. Our "offices" are in nature, and our lifestyle seems idyllic.
However, few people are privy to the complex and hectic day-to-day life of production agriculture. They do not understand the emotional bonds that keep us tethered to our lifestyle.
Until you eat, sleep and breathe agriculture as a way of life, few people can ever understand how working is both our passion and our play.
When you are enjoying your summer cookouts, just remember that a farmer is out there doing what he loves.
We might not be enjoying holidays in the same way society as a whole does, but the cows don't take vacations, so neither do we. When you do what you love, though, vacation is every day.
*Megan Brown is a blogger and sixth-generation rancher who raises Black Angus cattle in northern California. From 4-H as a child to FFA as a teen to receiving her bachelor's degree in agricultural business from California State University-Chico, agriculture has been Brown's lifelong passion. Read more on her website at www.thebeefjar.com, or contact her at [email protected]