People who are psychologists and in the mental health business talk about a person having an identity. Part of a person’s development is their self-image.
That identity is revealed when one person asks another, “Who are you?” Or without consciously thinking about it, when we ask ourselves, “Who am I?”
When I am asked that question by someone, first, I give them my name and then tell them that I am a farmer. But more than being a farmer, I am a corn grower. That is my identity.
I am a fourth-generation corn grower surrounded by thousands of other corn growers for several hundred miles in all directions. That is who I am.
I grew up watching my dad grow corn, planting with a John Deere A and four-row planter and harvesting two rows at a time with a mounted corn picker and flare box.
He used all his corn to feed his livestock. It was used where it was raised, never leaving the farm.
All my corn leaves the farm, the majority of it going to the ethanol plant less than a mile away.
When my fifth-generation corn growing son and I talk to each other, we talk about land, fertilizer, herbicide, storage, marketing, crop insurance and drainage.
Then there is the equipment such as tractors, sprayers, plows, trucks, wagons, combines, driers, bins and augers.
As if that is not enough, we also talk about what our neighbors are doing in their pursuit of growing corn as we look for ideas to improve our farm to grow and sell every bushel we can.
The subject, directly or indirectly, is about the growing, harvesting, storing and selling of corn.
We also grow soybeans and they are an important part of our operation, but it is corn that gets our attention every day.
Even my clothing shows that I am a corn grower. My cap and whatever jacket I wear have the name of a seed company or someone whose business is corn related such as equipment or ethanol.
I have certain clothing for everyday and other clothing for going to town, but they are all corn related and I wear them proudly, because that is who I am and I want people to know it.
I am sure I am not the only farmer who pays attention to what seed or color of farm equipment the person promoting or showing their loyalty, it’s like gang colors.
We were cleaning out a closet a few days ago and my wife asked a question that has been asked many times by many other wives. “How many caps do you need?”
I did not have an answer for her. Each cap represented something important, be it machinery, insecticide, seed, an elevator or a business or anything else.
My dad passed away 13 years ago and I even have a few of his caps. I can pick them out now as he had his favorites.
Looking at a cap and remembering it on my dad’s head is a favorite memory. It is more than just an old cap.
I like to wonder how someone, especially a foreigner, who has never been to the Midwest before, processes what he sees while traveling past acres and acres of corn for hundreds of miles in all directions. I live this everyday and I find it breath taking.
Producing corn is an industry of its own and for many of us it is our job and our lifestyle. It is our identity. It is who we are.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.