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COLUMN: Life on farm part of my past, present and future

GROWING UP on a farm has had the greatest impact on my life. It has defined who I am today because it is such a special place. I was able to take part in many unique experiences, from raising 4–H calves to selling chicken eggs and Christmas trees. The farm has been an anchor in my life and a place I can always call home.

One of my earliest memories on the farm was going with Daddy on the big tractor to plow the fields and plant the spring peas. I was no older than 4 or 5, but every time I saw him put on his field clothes, I would beg and plead to go with him. He always said yes, but on one condition—that I watch for big rocks that might harm the tractor.

As soon as he opened the door, my twin sister, Savannah, and I would race to the tractor and find our places in the cab: mine on the right armrest, and hers on the left. The tractor came to life with a loud roar and we were off. The plow sunk into the soft, brown dirt and my eyes would already be searching for big rocks.

Occasionally, my dad would stop the tractor and get out. I knew it was for either one of two things: to unclog the discs from the packed dirt or to uncover an arrowhead that he somehow saw from the corner of his eye. When he came back with an arrowhead, my sister and I were so excited and sometimes would fight over who would get to keep the treasures he found. It’s still a mystery to us to this day how he was able to find them even when we kept our eyes peeled trying to spot them.

As I grew up, I got involved with the Caroline County 4–H livestock club. At around 13 I acquired my first calf. He was only a few months old and needed a home because his mother had unexpectedly died. I remember coming home from school one day and finding a lovely surprise for me in the barn. There he was just staring at me through the fence. He was standing up, his body turned toward me, showing me a small, white star on his head against his black body and swinging the little, white tip of his tail.

I was so overjoyed that I ran up to the fence ready to inspect my new project, but just as I did the calf immediately ran away, as he was not used to humans. Of all the calves I raised and sold, this calf was by far the hardest, but the most rewarding. Whenever I tried to bottle-feed the calf, he’d run away and not let me near him.

As a last resort, my dad and I held the calf down, simply put the bottle in his mouth and moved his jaws up and down so the milk could pass down through his throat. After a few days of this, the calf eventually caught on. Soon, he was running to the gate when he saw me and would eagerly finish the whole bottle in less than a minute.

I decided to name him Moo–moo, and the name stuck. My whole family took a particular interest in him and grew fond of him. I weaned Moo–moo off milk, and when he was ready for grain and grass, turned him into a bigger field. I still fed him every night and day, and on the weekends I would groom him and spend time with him. I had no problem getting a halter on him or teaching him how to lead because he would just follow me around.

I went on walks with Moo–moo and led him to the best clover patches all around the farm. Eventually, he got so big that I had to start putting horse halters on him instead of rope halters.

Soon enough, sale time was looming for Moo–moo. My family and I knew this was inevitable, so it was not a surprise that we were emotional. Thankfully, my grandmother decided to buy him because she liked him so much. Every time I went over to my grandmother’s farm, I would visit Moo–moo. He’d recognize me instantly and always let me pet him.

My grandmother enjoyed keeping Moo-moo with her herd because she liked having a steer she could pet, and he also had a calming effect on the rest of the herd.

Moo–moo lived out the rest of his life on my grandmother’s beautiful farm, roaming where he pleased and constantly receiving treats and pats on the head from kids who would visit. Sometimes I even let kids ride him while I’d lead him around, giving them an experience they wouldn’t forget.

During my summer breaks from college, I enjoy working on the farm with my family and friends. My sister and I continued our egg business. We’ve also ventured into growing heirloom watermelons and cantaloupes to supplement tuition costs.

I’ve returned to Randolph College, where I am enjoying my classes, friends and playing on Randolph’s tennis team. I look forward to next summer again on the farm, where I will be growing heirloom melons, raising free-range eggs and running the roadside stand and CSA with my twin sister.

Emmalyn and Savannah Snead are the twin college sophomore daughters of Caroline County farm couple Emmett and Ellen Snead. Emmalyn attends Randolph College in Lynchburg, and Savannah goes to North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

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