Brenda Frketich of Kirsch Family Farms in the Willamette Valley of Oregon has been a long-time friend to me personally and to DTN/Progressive Farmer. She was one of our America's Best Young Farmers and Ranchers in 2014 and has contributed to our work several times since.
She has, in years since, assumed management of her family's third-generation farm. Farming with her husband, Matt, the business produces grass seed, hazelnuts, clover, wheat, vegetables and vegetable seeds on 1,000 acres. She is the mom of three young children -- two boys and a girl -- and is highly effective in state politics.
In her "spare" time, she publishes a well-written, humorous and thoughtful blog, NuttyGrass (find it at www.NuttyGrass.com). When NuttyGrass pops up in my email, I take a few minutes to catch up with Brenda.
Brenda's newest NuttyGrass column dropped earlier this week. It was time to let someone go, she wrote. A something, actually, but as near a member of the family as anything can be. It was time to send the farm's venerable Cat 45 down the road to a new farm. The family has operated this Cat -- vintage 1995 -- since 1999. It will be missed, she said.
"Farmers ... we can tend to be ... (well), hoarders seems like a really strong word to use," she began in a video (on her Facebook page, Nuttygrass) accompanying her NuttyGrass blog. "We like to keep things around just in case we need them. But we have this tractor we just don't need anymore. We've changed cropping systems, we just aren't working as much dirt as we used to, so she is heading down the road to another farm."
Its absence has left Brenda conflicted. "I know it might sound silly that we need a little closure with this tractor, but I do. If you're a farmer, you'll understand. If you're not a farmer, just pretend you're selling one of your children today. That's how it feels ... no, not really ... but, kind of," she said, smiling, a bit of wry humor as she worked through her feelings on video.
Brenda wrote a poem about her Cat 45, about how a piece of rolling steel and power becomes a member of the family. Here it is, in full. I think you all might relate.
"As our Cat 45 headed down the road and we said farewell
I took a deep breath and reminded myself it was just time to sell.
She's worked our dirt for 22 years, at least 10 times over
Getting fields ready for grass seed, green beans, wheat and clover.
She's hooked up to many harrows, plows and disks
Even in tough conditions she always pulled, taking all the risks.
A few years back we dressed her up a bit and gave her auto-steer
But at the end of the day even that couldn't justify keeping her here.
She's broke down, been cussed and kicked more than a time or two
But she still got washed up to be put away for winter, cuz that's just what we do.
A new hydraulic pump to end her last season on our farm
Her last winter getting parked inside our barn.
It's funny this feeling of being attached to a machine
But these pieces of equipment have always been a part of my dream.
For those of us who measure memories in acres in the heat of the summer;
You know these treasured moments between just a tractor and just a farmer.
Memories of kids sitting next to you learning all the ropes.
Knowing for a fact that having them want to sit there gives our legacy a little hope.
It was our last rolling stock with big tracks and my grandpa will probably roll over in his grave.
Except that little D2 parked in the lean too there, I'm afraid that one we are gonna to have to save.
I may have had a tear as the kids said goodbye and wished her adieu
See you down the road old friend, I hope your new farmer takes good care of you."
Dan Miller can be reached at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter @DMillerPF
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