Rural Youth Makes Life Better – Again!
Recently I had a comment on my blog from a fellow Rural Youther who was celebrating his 48th wedding anniversary. He was doing some thinking and planning to celebrate the day’s memory and did a Google search on Rural Youth and managed to hit my blog. We had a few back-n-forth emails and we quickly discovered that he knew my Indiana family and we both discovered what a small world this is.
Having that encounter made me think of my involvement in Rural Youth and how the organization’s activities have directed my life. It happened yet again recently (even though I’m far from being a youth any more!) when I participated in a half-marathon with my daughter. I had been running in the rain for about 45 minutes and was nearing the finish line. My clothing was really weighing me down, making me consider the option of sitting down and crying until the medics showed up. Then Rural Youth memories took over – the song on my Ipod resurrected me. It was ‘Little Black Book’. That was one of my favourite line dances when I was in Rural Youth and when that song came on, a smile broke out on my face and I actually laughed out loud and picked up the pace and crossed the finish line jogging to the tune of ‘Little Black Book’. Once again I thank Rural Youth for making my life better.
A New Beginning
At this point in my life (September, 2007), I am first and foremost a farmer. I’ll make that a passionate farmer. I am also a Hoosier. A Hoosier is better known as someone who grew up in Indiana.
I grew up on a farm in southern Indiana and am the youngest of six redneck children and am commonly referred to as ‘Duck’.
The agricultural growing season in southern Indiana is quite a bit longer than here in Ontario, Canada which allowed my parents to be both public school teachers and farmers. My father also was quite active as a real estate broker during his later years of his teaching profession. He encouraged me in the real estate profession as well and I was able to boast about being the youngest real estate broker in the State of Indiana in 1980 at the age of 18. I actually had to wait until my birthday to apply for my license!
As well as being a teacher in the public system, my mother served as a teacher in the house too. She encouraged us to participate in 4-H and was the expert when it came to cooking, canning, sewing and crafts. Martha Stewart didn’t hold a candle against Mom when it came to decorating and being frugal. Who knew one could make so many different items from empty toilet paper rolls, yarn and glue?
My parents have both retired from teaching but I continue to remain their student. I’m sure they wish that they could still send me to the principal’s office from time to time.
Tuff Creek Farm
The farm where I grew up is called Tuff Creek Farm. For many years, Tuff Creek Farm consisted of a ‘U-Pick’ strawberry patch, a small greenhouse for our own tomato plants, many acres of irrigated tomatoes and many acres of sweet corn and field corn. Tuff Creek Farm also operated a fresh fuit and vegetable market called ‘The Covered Wagon Market’. The market was located in Shelbyville, Indiana and touted a red and white striped canvas Conestoga covered wagon as its trademark. Nestled beside the wagon was a mini hip-roofed barn where the refreigerated fare of the market was housed. I started working at the market at the ripe age of eight and my only sister became my slave master and teacher each and every summer for the next six years. The experience that I gained during this time was invaluable and gave a whole new meaning to the definition of sisterly love. With no running water, no toilet or porta-potty and no phone, I sometimes wondered if people thought this business was some type of rehabilitation/correctional operation for juvenile delinquents. If the sales for the day had been good, I might get paid $5.00 for the whole day (9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.) and get treated to an ice cream cone from our favourite watering hole, “The Cow Palace”. If the sales hadn’t been good, it was simply a long and quiet 30-minute drive home in the flambuoyant ‘Covered Wagon Market’ pick-up truck.
The Cement Pond
Through the proceeds of the strawberry patch, my father was ‘convinced’ (lean heavy on the ‘con’) by his six angelic children to build an in-ground cement pond – better known as a swimming pool. The cement pond became our equivalent to an annual family vacation. I was six years old at the time that the pool was built and my oldest brother, Dave was 17 years old. Dave took swimming lessons hoping that all of his redneck siblings would be properly impressed with his honed swimming talents. As we all anxiously watched and waited as the local volunteer fire department brought tanker truck after tanker truck full of water to the pool, Dave prepared himself for the inaugural dive from the diving board to demonstrate his new-found skills. With shoulders back and head held high, Brother Dave began his running approach from the far end of the board and entered the surface of the smooth water with a cannonball like no other. He proceeded back up to the rippling suface with arms flailing and continued to bob up and down in the water, spewing and spitting and gasping for air until my mother finally realized that Dave was drowning! Since none of the rest of the family observers could swim, (because we were waiting fro Brother Dave to teach us!) my mother quickly extended a nearby pole to Dave who grabbed it for dear life, literally. Needless to say that the rest of my siblings taught themselves to swim and we are able to boast no drownings thus far at Tuff Creek Farm.
High School Years
During my teenage years, I attended a small rural high school in Hope, Indiana called Hauser High School. It was during these years that I underwent spinal fusion surgery for a severe case of scoliosis. The surgery required me to be bedfast for six months and I wore a body cast for an additional six months. I have complications as a result of this surgery and tend to walk differently from any other human being. I think differently than most humans as well but have not yet been able to blame that on the surgery! Lessons learned through this experience include patience, bedpan acumen and an improved sense of humour.
Love Found in Indiana Rural Youth/Junior Farmers
Many Indiana young farmers participated in a post-4-H organization known as Rural Youth. During my years in Rural Youth, I participated in an exchange program that was shared with Waterloo County, Ontario Junior Farmers. The exchange consisted of young Indiana farmers being billeted out to homes/families of Waterloo County Junior Farmers. The program was to allow for participants to compare agricultural practices, cultures, beliefs/values, etc. While on the exchange program, I met a drop-dead farmer gorgeous young man who seemed to show a more than casual interest in me, but I was young and a free spirit and certainly wasn’t looking to settle down with a farmer, let alone a farmer who lived in Canada. I finished my undergraduate studies and was living on my own when the time came for the Rural Youth/Junior Farmer exchange that was to be hosted by the Hoosiers. That same drop-dead gorgeous Canadian farmer came down for the exchange and all of the planets must have been aligned and the timing and attraction perfect because less than a year later, I was married to that drop-dead gorgeous Canadian farmer and living in the Great White North.
Just before I got married, my father approached my siblings and me about the possibility of forming a family corporation. The corporation would involve the pooling of resources and talents to buy and sell real estate and hopefully make a profit. All parties seemed to be interested and so throughout the next two decades, the family corporation bought real estate in Indiana and Florida. Some of the purchases that were made would hardly be categorized as ‘prime’. Some would more likely be called ‘dumps’ but my father always said that someone else’s mess looked like an opportunity to him and so it was with our purchases. Often my siblings and I would think that Dad found us more opportunity than we could handle. Cleanup of the properties often involved hard work but also provided chances for the family members to work together toward a common goal. As might be expected, there were disagreements from time to time but ultimately the corporation provided a venue that caused relations to be strengthened beyond a normal family unit. The final project of the corporation was the purchase of a 60 acre pasture that was turned into a nine hole golf course. Since that opening, the surrounding land around the golf course has been purchased by family members. These purchases provide an opportunity for a future expansion of the golf course and also has provided several residential building lots that are currently for sale. Some photos of the golf course can be seen at cliftycreekrealestate.com
Since my arrival in Canada, I have carried on that entrepreneurial spirit with the owning and operation of two giftware/home decor stores. The first store is Conestogo Mercantile. My business partner and I owned this store from 1996 to 2002. The store is still in existence but is now owned by Dan and Veronica Stawski. The second store is located at Stonehaven Farm Greenhouse in Elmira, Ontario. I owned that operation for four years before selling and turning over the reins to the greenhouse operators.
I most recently ‘retired’ from my position of Chief Financial Officer at Grand River Raceway. As well as my financial interests, I recently closed the ‘Snyder School of Higher Learning’, the home-school for my two children, now attending university. Read more about that on the Family page of this blog.