I’ve been thinking about farms lately and have concluded that farmers have it all over the rest of us.

In this frenzied, fast-paced world, they’re out in the fields, plowing, planting, haying and enjoying the sunshine.

The rest of us are stuck inside buildings, pecking away at keyboards, answering phones, taking orders, breathing conditioned air.

I’m not saying farmers have it easy — quite the contrary. Most work hard, day and night, with little or no time off.

But they live close to nature and the earth every day.

While everything around them changes technologically, politically and otherwise, they are fortunate to be able to live in a sort of time warp, surrounded by fields and woods, birds, wildlife. They get to feel the wind on their faces, smell the hay, watch clouds move and change in a blue sky.

One need only travel the River Road from Benton to Clinton in central Maine to get a taste of that unchanged world.

Farmers are on their tractors; cows graze happily in pastures. Open the car windows. The air is invigorating on that half-hour’s drive through paradise.

Whenever possible, I take River Road, which winds its way along the Kennebec River, instead of traveling busy U.S. Route 201. The scent of manure in the summer, while repugnant to some, to me is a reminder that here is life.

I always wave to passing farmers, without whom we would have no milk, eggs, butter, meat, crops. They are intimately in touch with what matters. If I find myself behind a slowly-lumbering farm truck, I am consciously patient. Without meaning to sound obsequious, I feel we owe farmers a debt of gratitude.

When I was a child growing up in Skowhegan, there were many more farms than there are now.

I loved visiting them, helping to feed the cows and horses, slopping the pigs, collecting eggs, swinging hay bales atop a wagon in haying season, even shoveling manure.

We climbed the barn rafters, jumped into piles of hay, created play houses and hosted barn parties.

The scent of a barn is something I’m sure I will carry with me into my old age, as I lie there with little but memories to contemplate.

Until then, I’ll continue to feel grateful for farmers as I reap the benefits of their hard work.

When I visit a farmers market, I’m always mindful of the labor and love that goes into every offering carefully laid on their tables, from the bunches of carrots and greens to the loaves of fresh-baked bread.

And part of me is always a little envious, knowing where those farmers will be heading when they leave the city at the end of the day.


Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.