Published on Saturday, March 25, 2017
All his life, Brooks Barnes has known he wanted to be a farmer. “I used to go to the field and ride between my daddy's legs in the combine. I'd take naps there. They couldn't get me away from it.” Brooks recalls.
In high school, Brooks was a very talented athlete but by his junior year, something else was calling him. "I decided I didn't want to play sports anymore. I wanted to come home and burn diesel fuel or go hunting or fishing. I'm an outdoors person.”
Now Brooks and his family grow tobacco, sweet potatoes, corn, soybeans and wheat.
His wife, Heather, grew up in town, but has come to love their lifestyle immersed in agriculture. She works full time for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and is active in several agricultural organizations. “Coming from town, and an area where they didn't grow tobacco, it just amazed me all that goes into getting that little bitty plant.” She says, thinking back to her first years on the farm. “The seed, it's just a little pin point. It's tiny. To think you could get something so large out of that one tiny little seed.”
Together, Brooks and Heather are raising the third generation of Barnes’ to live on their diversified North Carolina farm. “The kids have this opportunity to be a part of something from the minute they were born and an opportunity to grow up working with their dad and granddad. Where else do you get that? My youngest is one and he's been riding in the tractor since he was born!” Heather beams. “They may decide they don't want to farm, and that's okay. They're going to learn so many different things that whatever they decide to do, that will translate.”
Hands-on fun surrounds them on the farm. “What kid wouldn’t want all this dirt?” She laughs. “We take the kids out and we're planting and harvesting sweet potatoes. It's great! And they're learning. I've got pictures of Ryan out there setting sweet potatoes with his daddy last year. It's just so cool to me that we can spend family time together having those experiences.”
Although there are great memories to be made, and life lessons to learn, the learning experience itself isn’t always fun. Life isn’t fair. “The boys will learn you can put everything you have into your crop and Mother Nature might take it away in an hour. We had that a couple of years ago with the hurricane.” Heather recalls. “One hour of winds destroyed what crop we had left in the field.”
But, like farmers across the country, the Barnes’ are committed. When trials come, they persevere. “It comes from inside you, it goes back to who you are.” Heather says.
"There's this pride when you think of how you grew this and put everything you had into it. When we ride around, he's looking at his fields. That's how we spend time together. When the four of us are in the tractor, it's tight, but it's our family time. What other job do your kids have the opportunity to spend this time with their family and have these experiences?"
That's why Brooks and Heather Barnes farm.
Author: Natalina Sents
Categories: Why I Farm, Why I Farm Roadtrip
Tags: Why I Farm, corn, Wheat, Natalina Sents, Why I Farm Roadtrip, North Carolina, Heather Barnes, Brooks Barnes, sweet potatoes, tobacco, beans, logging
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