Under the warm glow of Christmas, papers cover your worn dining table.  Not the festive wrapping paper and all the trimmings, but the looming bills that are due, the magazine covers that are talking “doomsday” and the “to do” lists that every Ag producer must complete by end of the calendar year.

Coffee rings and supper crumbs cover it all, as the piles haven’t moved, nor have the feelings resolved that go along with the mess.  Husbands and wives sit and talk in hushed tones after the children are in bed, wondering how “Are we going to make it?” through this season, while tears threaten to fall and cover the Christmas wish lists.

I know you dear farm mama.  For your worries are mine.  As a child of the late 70’s, I have memories of the farm crisis of the mid 80’s, and tears prick my eyes when the older generation talks about “1985” and uses the words “interest payments” and “upside down market prices” and “farm sales.”  Indeed, many are saying we have the makings for another perfect storm.

Most families share the struggle that comes with preparing their hearts and minds for the Christmas season.  Many families across this great land are stretched to the max right now under crippling healthcare costs and ever rising living expenses.  But fewer and fewer live as we do, spending our days and nights toiling in an industry whose markets are manipulated by factors across the world, most of them out of our control.  And, we are now looking at cattle that won’t bring a profit at market, and corn that sits in bins and costs more to raise than sell.  It’s a dismal picture, and many of us are afraid.

But, fear not. 

Farm mama, I know you.  I know how you clip coupons, and stitch worn out fabrics.  You hoard your egg money, and go without.  You cook from scratch, and look for every opportunity under the sun to help bring in the bacon that keeps your family going.  Perhaps you will “go to town” for work, or find new work to do at home.  Perhaps you will stay home while your husband goes out and looks for more day work.  And maybe, just maybe…you and I will all take a lesson from Dolly Parton and her family this Christmas season, and focus solely on the things that matter.  The things that don’t cost much. Like the gift of Christ Jesus, and the warm laughter and hugs, the meaningful DIY Christmas gifts, and delicious cookies, and beautiful scenery that is Christmas.

For we all know that hard times don’t last, but hard working people do.  We chose this life, for all its beauty and stress, loss and riches, and joy and suffering.  We really wouldn’t have it any other way.  And at the end of the day, people all over the world are depending on us.  Depending on us to help them feed their own families, even when we worry about how we will feed our own. 

At the end of the day, remember dear farm mama.  This is a noble life and profession, it’s worth far beyond any money in the bank, and any sparkle and glitter under the Christmas tree.  We are raising up the next generation, many of whom will follow in the steps before them.  And, they are watching.  Watching to see how we work through this season of our lives.

There won’t be a lot under our tree this year, and this farm mama is headed to town to work in the New Year.  To say there have not been been tears shed, would be a lie.  But, I will do as my ancestors did during the great depression, the 1980’s, and all the hard times in between.  We stand up, dust off, and dig in.  Because, it’s what we do.

May you be richly blessed this Christmas season.

Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.