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So God Made A Farmer … And Molly Brown

In honor of National Agriculture Week, I decided to declare myself a farmer. In my world, you don’t have to raise chickens or acres of corn to be a farmer. You can grow a row of lettuce and proudly declare yourself a food producer.

I ordered 50,000 seeds through the mail and expected a Mack truck to pull up when they were delivered. But the seeds came in a little box and that’s because most of the seeds were no bigger than a grain of salt. I didn’t know how to sow a minuscule seed into a small pellet successfully, but I found a site on the Internet that advised, “Just do the best you can.”

A few days later, I had actual sprouts. While I wanted to take all the credit, I realized the universe must make it easy for seeds to sprout or we’d all be dead by now.

Farming, though, is not an easy job. I have written often about agriculture in this column. I have a passion for our local agricultural industry and the people who decide to spend their lives with dirty hands and who happily feed, seed, weed, and breed, as Paul Harvey once said in his famous speech, “So God Made A Farmer.”

I hope to reconnect people with their food source once again in a series of columns I’m planning about our local farms and our farmers. I want to ask you to dirty your own hands again through words and deepen your appreciation for the miracle that happens when you put a seed into some dirt and one day end up with a watermelon.

We have been removed from our food source through the advent of the grocery store. Today’s children know very little about where their food comes from. Many have never seen an apple dangling from a tree limb or yanked a carrot from the dark soil or run inside holding the first tiny grape tomato in their hands from the backyard garden.

To many, food is a drive-through window or the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. I think it’s important to reconnect humanity back to the elemental foundations of life–one being the food that sustains us.

In writing this series, I connected with all kinds of people who have a true passion for farming–some of whom never grew up on a farm. Molly Brown is one such person. She was raised in Colorado and was happily immersed in a fashion career before meeting her husband Justin Brown at a concert. He was from Chautauqua County and made it clear to Molly he was one day moving back to Sherman, New York to farm and be closer to his family.

Molly Brown went with him and never looked back. It’s been eight years now and she loves her community, her farm animals, the farmers she knows, and what she describes as the selflessness of food producers who show true passion for feeding us.

Today she is the 4-H Youth Educator for Chautauqua County, through Cornell Cooperative Extension and a grant provided by the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation. She is happily sharing the facts, the tales and the mysteries of farming with children via classroom demonstrations and through other innovative programs, where she might show up with a baby cow and field questions from kids, like “Do brown cows make brown milk?”

Lately, one of her educational topics is the wonder of worms and their importance in contributing to the health of soil. She sees herself as a farm ambassador–one way to describe her role as a link between the land and the people who benefit from it. Through her, and sifted through her bubbly enthusiasm, even worms become a fascinating tidbit and we are evermore connected to that dirt by way of community outreach.

I ask her if she ever imagined while growing up in Colorado that part of her adult life would involve farming and tending animals. She laughs, and makes it clear that her passion is more about raising and caring for the animals.

“Well,” she says, “even my lifelong best friend said she could imagine me as a farmer one day. She said she thought I had it in me. But I really love taking care of the animals. I love the personalities of all the different chickens…watching my kids with the animals is fantastic. I love the entire culture of a life being dedicated to animals—doing something greater than yourself.”

Molly Brown is one of the good people who bring our agricultural community into greater focus. For more information and a list of programs available to local youth, please visit http://chautauqua.cce.cornell.edu.

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