My grandma at the big farm with her brother, his wife, my grandpa and my mom


This time last year I was on my family’s corn and soy farm in Central Illinois. It was a great experience: I got to ride tractors, see a newborn calf, go to the annual ice cream social at the church my grandparents were married in, and learn about my family’s history. My grandma grew up on this farm with her 7 brothers and sisters, and her father grew up on the same farm before her. I love the history of this place and the idea of farming for a living; to feed ones family and others.

My grandma grew up with parents who were sustenance farmers. Her parents and brothers grew what they needed to feed their family, and the rest of what they grew, raised or made would go to support other needs and to invest in more land. On the other side of my family, my grandpa was a pastor’s son, but his family raised rabbits  to sell for meat. When my grandparents were growing up, the US was around 18% agricultural. Farms are still important in the US now, but with Monsanto, Tyson and other huge industries, food and farming isn’t the family trade it use to be.





A piece of the farm









Kids by some of the farm land we walked through



Here in Ethiopia, the society is highly agricultural. 80% of the country’s economy and population is agricultural, and this week we have been out in the thick of it. We are in Harar, Ethiopia, in the central part of the country, about 12 hours (via bus) east of Addis Ababa. The drive was really beautiful, although I slept through most of it. The road is lined with small sustenance farms. Here in Harar we visited a village where many of the community members are farmers growing grain, potatoes and chat. This village, and I can imagine many of the villages we passed, has no irrigation and relies on the rain. The rain here is essential, and as of right now the rain is late. The farmers are worried every day and are ready for the rainy seasons to begin.

Growing up, my grandma would always keep me informed on how her brothers were doing on the farm and what the rain and weather were doing  to their crops. They have huge irrigation systems, yet are still highly reliant on the weather. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be for these farmers in the Harar region who are farming without irrigation or a water catchment systems. The weather is becoming drier in this region and the rains are less and less reliable with climate change.

I love to grow things, to start something from a seed and watch it grow. I use to have urban gardens and it was always so nice to eat the things I grew and share them with friends. As a highschooler I dreamed of going to some far off place kind of like Harar, Ethiopia, and becoming a sustenance farmer. I longed for a simple life where I could spend time outside, build great relationships and not worry about much else. I know now that farming is not as easy as I once thought, and when food doesn’t grow then there is no food for the table. Yet, I still have such a respect for the farming profession. Farmers give food, and like water, food is life.



The village farm at sunset





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