The Steele family truck – A 2003 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty 4×4
Welcome to RamZone’s Year of Farmer guest blogger series, where stories of life on the American farm are offered by the people best qualified to tell them—American farmers. Over the next nine months, a number of guest bloggers, all of whom are involved in agricultural work of some kind, will take turns contributing exclusive content to RamZone. The goal is simple: to raise awareness in the Year of the Farmer for the values, ideals and simple pleasures associated with the farming life.
How Chickens Made Us a Part of the Community
By Lisa Steele
We live in the country, plain and simple. When you get to the end of our quiet road, you can either turn left or right. To the left, the road eventually takes you to traditional big box stores and a chain pharmacy where, in the past, we would stop and pick up a few items on our way home from work.
To the right, there are cotton fields as far as the eye can see. There was a time—before we started raising chickens—when we didn’t know where the fields ended. For all we knew, they could have just gone on indefinitely; it sure didn’t look like there was any reason to ever turn right, so we always turned left.
Then we got chickens and needed to find a local feed store. A neighbor mentioned there was one a few miles down the road—to the right. So one warm sunny morning we climbed into our Ram truck, drove to the end of our road and turned right. We drove past the cotton fields, which soon gave way to corn fields, past farmhouses set back from the road, past a farm stand selling watermelons, and past a field of cows.
The small commuter-type cars we were used to seeing started to give way to pickup trucks. And then sure enough, there was the feed store. Right next to it was a hardware store, a small post office and a family-owned pharmacy.
Since that day, we rarely turn left anymore. We shop at local, family-owned businesses now. We know the pharmacist and the owners of the hardware store by name; the feed store owner knows our dog’s name since she often comes with us to do errands. We bring our fresh eggs to the postal clerks and they ask about our chickens. They are delighted to hand us a small peeping box marked “Fragile” when we order chicks online each spring.
Last fall we attended the Country Fair and saw many familiar faces. Standing outside the tent, drinking lemonade, chatting with people we knew and hearing roosters crowing in the background waiting to be judged just somehow felt right. Living in a community is so much more than just owning a home there and driving past local businesses on your way to work. Living in a community means belonging to that community.
Nowadays, most Saturday mornings we head out after breakfast. We turn right and continue on past the cotton fields. We stop at the feed store and load up our truck with hay for the horses, toss a few bags of chicken feed on top, maybe add a flat of seedlings, or a jar of local honey or jam, and then we’re off to the hardware store for whatever odds and ends we might need for the coming week’s fence repairs.
This past summer I was building a new chicken coop and needed some plywood, but my husband had the truck at work. Fortunately one of the guys at the hardware store recognized me and offered to swing by on his way home from work to deliver the plywood. Free of charge. Sure enough, a few hours later, he made good on his promise and then refused a tip. He said, “No ma’am, I was just happy to help.” He left with two dozen eggs.
They say you know you live in a small town when you can’t go for a walk because every passing car will stop and try to offer you a ride home. That’s the kind of town I want to live in. If we can’t grow it, raise it, make it or find it locally, we probably don’t need it anyway.
All photos courtesy of Lisa Steele