COLUMN: That wonderful partnership of farmers and God

Published 8:56 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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By J. Edward Howell Jr.
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For those of you who do not know me, I actively farmed for 30 years. When I returned home from Virginia Tech in 1954 I joined in with my brother-in-law Hunter Darden, Jr. and farmed land that my father had owned plus land that I bought later on. Farming is a great lifestyle. It is sometimes very hard work; most of the time it is dusty and sweaty work. Very often it is strenuous and muscle intensive. There have been a lot of mechanical inventions from the time of my grandfathers and now, that have made a lot of the heavy lifting go much easier. There is no way to completely escape some of the heavy toil however. All in all it is a good life; it is a great way to raise a family. Children are able to learn a lot of good principles just by observing nature and watching their parents do their normal tasks.

As an older man I now am much more aware of that precious relationship that farmers have with God. As a young man I took for granted much of farming that is entirely within God’s realm of command. In the late winter and early spring months farmers busily plough and disc their fields in preparation of the new crop. They buy and spread lime and fertilizer that will nourish the new crop. When the soil warms up enough to plant their seeds they hook their tractors up to the planters and begin to plant the corn, the peanuts, the cotton the maize, the watermelons or whatever else they desire to harvest later in the year; and don’t forget the family garden. We all know that it is God that makes it possible for us to get up in the morning, to have the health we need to work, but now, out in the fields, God really does what man cannot do. We plant the seed, but we cannot make it germinate and grow. It takes the warmth of the sun, the moisture from the rains and that miracle of God that forms that little embryo that begins to form, and sprout and begins to push through the ground and makes its first appearance to the farmer. As God does His part and grows the plant, the farmer begins his task of being the steward that tends to the plant’s health and proper growth. Weeds, grass and insects begin to attack and devour the plants. It is the farmer’s duty to detect, prevent and control the adverse effects that these things can have on a crop. As the growing season moves along farmers are constantly hoping and praying for adequate rains and ample sunshine that make the crops healthy. Everything appears to go well and most years it does, however, once in a while there is insufficient rain and the crops undergo a drought. In 1980 I experienced a severe drought as did all Tidewater area farmers. It was awful, but we survived. Sometimes, right at harvest time, there will come a hurricane and flood the fields and blow down the corn. It is times like this that test men’s souls. I remember, in 1964, a hurricane came through our area and flooded the fields just as we began to harvest corn and plow up peanuts. During these troubling times I witnessed another miracle. As the fields began to dry out enough for farmers to begin harvesting again, I began to see farmers taking their equipment to their neighbor’s farm to help him out. They had done all they could do at home so they volunteered their selves and their equipment to help each other out of trouble. Some farms dried out faster than others, so the farmers went to where they could work. Of such character are farmers made. God has His Hand in other fields of endeavor as well. Miners dig for treasures in the earth that they did not make. The oil industry profits from the petroleum that they did not create. They are gifts from God. Raising any type of livestock permits us to see God’s participation in the process. I raised feeder pigs so I know firsthand what is involved in that endeavor. I have had to manually take little piglets out of the sow when she was in trouble. I have seen them die from extreme edema and could not farrow the piglets when they were due. When everything goes well a healthy sow can average 16 piglets a year. That is a very good return on investment. Hunter and I also maintained a herd of 50 Black Angus beef cattle plus an energetic young Angus bull. They calved once a year and once in a while one would have twin calves, a nice bonus. We tended to them, but God gave the increase.

The problem today is that man forgets what God has done and continues to do so. Man thinks that he can control the climate. Man does not recognize the sanctity of the life of an unborn infant. Man thinks that a boy can change into a girl, or vice versa. I pray that mankind will come to their senses and recognize the things that God does and leave those things up to Him. God has given mankind enough tasks to take care of without intruding into His Domain.

Jimmy Howell is a native of Southampton County. He can be reached via email at