*This blog post was recently published in the newest issue of Kansas AgLand, published by The Hutchinson News. Read other ag blogs and industry trends at http://www.kansasagland.com.
The holiday season is synonymous with family, and, for years, mothers, fathers, siblings and cousins gathered to celebrate and give thanks. However, just days before the start of this year’s holiday season, The New York Times released a lengthy, in-depth look at the size and shape of the American family – and how it no longer resembles the families of past generations.
“Researchers who study the structure and evolution of the American family express unsullied astonishment at how rapidly the family has changed in recent years, the transformations often exceeding or capsizing those same experts’ predictions of just a few journal articles ago,” writer Natalie Angier stated in her piece “The Changing American Family,” published in the Nov. 25, 2013, New York Times.
Sadly, the study quoted by Angier revealed that the “traditional” American family – comprised of a mother and father, children and grandparents – is a dying model, found now only in dusty photo albums and Normal Rockwell paintings.
But all hope – and family – is not lost. This Christmas, my family and millions of other Midwest farm families will sit down to a holiday meal with mothers, fathers, sisters and cousins. Many farming families mirror my own, where generations work, live and celebrate alongside one another. My husband and father-in-law work together on a daily basis. My husband has two brothers, both of whom live within 30 miles from the farm and continue to gather for Sunday family dinners. Chalk it up to Christian values, close-knit generations or greater emphasis on preserving the family. No matter the reason, as the traditional American family slowly removes itself from the landscape of big cities, family lives on many farms and remains alive and well in rural America.
My own parents are a mere five miles from our house, and my sister and her husband also are less than a half-hour car ride away. It’s a rare week that I don’t see one, if not all, of my family members, and it’s not unusual to greet my in-laws during my morning run or while dropping my child off at the babysitter – where he plays alongside his cousin.
Small towns keep families close, and growing farms and agriculture businesses give younger generations an opportunity to return home. As my own son grows and makes decisions about his future, I look to the farm with hope that he, too, will make the decision to return to his family’s passion and pride and carry on the Sawyer farming tradition. Fingers crossed, my husband and I will be right here to work alongside him, and his uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents will remain only miles away.
Few industries can celebrate families that have maintained the same business – oftentimes the same home – for a century or more. Nearly 98 percent of farms continue to be family-owned and, thankfully, the rich tradition of farming has continued on the traditional family model.
Farming and agriculture have made many advances in recent years, but despite the family’s changing landscape in other parts of the county, it remains consistent and largely traditional in the farming families across this great country. For that, I believe, we can give thanks.