Our Rural Roots

Give a Toast to Today

A red barn no longer red but weathered gray holds special memories for blogger Katie Pratt. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Katie Pratt)

Growing up, I treasured my life on the farm. The routine of the seasons -- spring calving, summer baling, autumn harvest and winter work. I lived for traditions -- county fair, apple-picking and freezing corn. My introverted soul thrived on memories vividly preserved in the everyday things that surrounded me.

When my grandparents' house came down two years ago, I shed a lot of angry tears. Although it sat empty for more than a decade, its bulky frame held so many things that defined my life. To comfort me, my aunt shared, "It isn't the thing that makes the memory. It's here that keeps the memory," and she tapped her head.

This November marks a decade since my beloved Grandma June passed. She is present in so many memories. I pull them from the deepest recesses of my consciousness when I need them most -- for comfort, for purpose, for knowledge.

Much of today's conversation about farming and food involves memories of how life used to be. Society is drawn to the romantic notion that a simpler time must come from a simpler past. We, in agriculture, fall to this rhetoric, too.

A worn-out Super M plodding through a field must be better than the GPS-guided, autosteer-capable Magnum 340. Why? Because Grandpa Ray attempted to teach me to drive the Super M.

A red barn no longer red but weathered gray must be better than the sturdier, compact lean-to housing hay and cattle. Why? Because my friends and I would climb to the loft and etch the names of the latest crush in the beams.

Memories are awesome, often scary, reminders of from where we've come. But, they are no place to live. Todays are designated for that privilege.

This holiday season, raise a glass to your memories but toast your today.


Katie Pratt, a north-central Illinois farmer, still imagines the weathered gray barn where a metal, red shed now stands. Find her writing blog at https://www.theillinoisfarmgirl.com/…