Few experiences in my life have impacted me as much as the years I spent running around my grandparent’s ranch between Newman and Crows Landing. While climbing tractor tires, chasing lizards around the equipment, driving most of the ranch employees crazy singing along to the radio in the shop, sorting tomatoes and swimming in the bean pits while the guys harvesting were on dinner break, I was learning about life, although I didn’t realize it at the time. It was just fun.

Car rides were a great opportunity for me to ask questions, and Grandpa Harold was pretty patient with me. I loved finding out which crops were which, and whose farms were whose. I wanted to know about growing seasons and harvesting procedures, and to be able to identify crops by their leaves.

I wanted to know it all.

There was nothing like sitting at the end of a row in the bean fields eating beans fresh from the shells, or picking a bag to eat as we went to check the next field.

Grammie had gardens for both food and flowers. I would drive her crazy until she let me go out to pick the sweet peas, never complaining when only half the crop made it back to the house. And her greenhouse! Well, let’s just say there were many tea parties where mud pie was served.

There are so many life lessons that I carry with me from those days on the ranch. I learned about hard work. I learned about the bounty we are blessed with when we nurture plants and take the time to care for the land. I learned respect for Mother Nature and her whims, both the good and the bad. I learned that we should appreciate those who work the land, those who forego the desk and chair for blue skies and row crops, harvesters and tractors.

And I learned that potting soil doesn’t make great mud pies.

We all reap the benefits of the work of farmers, of the sacrifices they make. Early mornings, late nights, tight budgets. Little sleep during irrigation season, even less sleep at harvest time. Family times often meant company in the pickup or tractor rather than stories at bedtime.

And not just so we can eat… but so we can eat well.

While we thank those who make agriculture their life’s work today, we should be thankful every day, at every meal. Not just for the bounty that graces our tables, but also for the men and women whose hard work makes it all possible.


Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at tbutero@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 862-2222.