6 Things I’ve Been Asked on The Why I Farm Roadtrip
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
This feature is the first in a series of blog posts spotlighting the unique members of the AgVocate Facebook community for their efforts to educate, share and help bridge the gap between consumers and the agriculture community. Today, we are happy to highlight Natalina Sents, a recent Iowa State graduate and blogger, who has been traveling the United States for the Beck’s Why I Farm Roadtrip.
As I wrapped up my college career at Iowa State, I received a ton of advice from people. “These are the best years of your life, don’t waste them!” or “Find a job you have passion for. If you’re doing what you love, you won’t work a day in your life.” After a lot of daydreaming and brainstorming, I found a way to take their advice – just not in the way that many would have expected.
A week after receiving my diploma, I set out to follow my passion and make the most of my new found freedom. I left Iowa with my sights set on a yearlong, 50-state road trip to honor farmers. By joining the Why I Farm Movement, I’ve had the unique opportunity to share the stories of farmers from across the country through blogs, photography and social media.
Eight months into this adventure I’m still blown away by the diversity of agriculture, humbled by the hospitality of the people I’ve had the privilege to meet, and stumped by the questions I have been asked along the way. Some of which, I wanted to share with you today.
- What is a typical Why I Farm Roadtrip interview like?
There’s simply no such thing. Just like every operation is unique, each visit is different. I typically allow an hour to an hour and a half on each farm, but sometimes I can get the facts I need in as little as 20 minutes. On the flip side, there are people that have invited me to spend an entire day with them. Some farmers are most comfortable casually telling their story as I shadow them through a normal work day. Others prefer a sit down and conduct their interview in a question and answer format. I travel alone, so an interview is always just me and whatever family members would like to participate. Often there’s a supervising farm dog too. Some families like to be interviewed together and finish each other’s sentences. Other folks are more comfortable in a one-on-one setting.
- What’s the most interesting farm you visited?
Even after eight months, I’m fascinated by each place I stop. Sometimes it’s a piece of unique equipment that catches my eye, a touching memory a farmer shares, or a crop I’ve never seen. I’ll never forget the time I spent touring a mushroom farm. Up until that point, I totally took mushroom farmers for granted. The needs and practices involved in mushroom farming had never crossed my mind until I met Mike Bulich from New York. As we walked through the beds of mushrooms, I felt like a curious little kid on a field trip, asking questions about everything I saw.
- What has been your favorite state?
This is another question that is always difficult for me to answer. The wide open spaces of the Dakotas made me want to live there with horses for the rest of my life. It was mind boggling to walk around farms in New England that were started before the United States even became a country. But if I had to pick one, so far, my favorite state may be Alaska. After traveling alone for months, it was so fun to share the breathtaking sights with my dad and Zac, a videographer. The independence, determination and innovative spirit of the farmers I met traveling The Last Frontier still gives me chills.
- What has been the most surprising part of the Why I Farm Roadtrip?
When I pulled out of my driveway on May 15, 2016, I knew this experience would challenge me emotionally. I figured there would be times I would miss home or wish there was someone to share the memories I was making with. But I didn’t anticipate the emotions that would come from the actual farm interviews. Most of my days are spent laughing and crying with farmers as they share the trials and triumphs of the past, the heartbreaking circumstances their family has overcome, and inspiring hopes and dreams they have for future generations. I can’t describe what it’s like to see a grandparent, overwhelmed with pride, as they watch their family continue caring for the land. My heart melts when I hear a little farmer tell me about the chores he or she gets do with their parents. I’m so humbled that all of these people are willing to open up to me about their lives, their failures, and fears. The hours I’ve spent gathered around kitchen tables or riding in the buddy seat just listening to these farmers have been the highlight of this trip.
- How have people responded?
I’m overwhelmed by all the support I have received as I continue the Why I Farm Roadtrip. Farmers have opened their homes and hearts. Many of them have become dear friends. Their appreciation for my work is a huge motivation. It’s been great to see the Why I Farm Movement grow. I love getting messages from people nominating a farmer they know to be honored. Every time I log on to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I love checking all the comments as people recall their own memories and relate to the farmers’ quotes. I smile each time I see farmers that I’ve visited connect with each other and following along with my travels.
- What’s next?
The Why I Farm Roadtrip will come to an end in late May of 2017. This adventure has confirmed, without a doubt, my passion is telling the story of agriculture and the people that make this such a wonderful industry. In terms of a career, I’m not sure what that looks like quite yet, but there’s no shortage of untold stories. Wherever I land career-wise, I plan to continue sharing more details and reflections of my travel on my personal blog, Roots Journey. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll even have the opportunity to speak about my experience or write a book.
I’m so thankful for the interest that so many people have in the Why I Farm Roadtrip. You can read more about the farmers and their families on the Why I Farm blog or social media pages. To share a Why I Farm story, use #WhyIFarm or email firstname.lastname@example.org.