The Woman Behind the Man Who Farms: She Who Feeds the Feeder

The Woman Behind the Man Who Farms: She Who Feeds the Feeder

by Donna Monday, former editor of Zionsville Times Sentinel

It sounds like a prescription, but Fran Herr says 6-12-6 were really mealtimes for her husband and whatever crew was working their Boone County farm at the time. And it was her job to see that those meals showed up on the table or in the field. Her life revolved around those three points on the clock.

Husband Sam ate the same breakfast every day of his life for decades until heart problems appeared. At 6 a.m. he had bacon, eggs, two pieces of toast and a bowl of cereal.

The noon meal was the biggie and was served to all who were there. This often included field hands, children and friends. During harvest time it wasn’t unusual for the children to have five or six friends there at mealtime. Every day at noon Fran served meat and potatoes. She describes her cooking as “not very inventive, but if they had complaints they didn’t tell me.”

Sam’s dad, Garrett, ate with them every day. He had been widowed early and appreciated Fran’s cooking–inventive or not.

The evening meal was lighter, often sandwiches. These were frequently “carry-out,” but not as we know the term today. Fran’s carry-out meant that she fixed the food and carried it out to the men at 6 p.m. It was that or wait until they were done working at 9 p.m., and she didn’t want to be serving dinner at 9 p.m.

For Fran, life as a farm wife centered around shopping for food, cooking the food and serving the food. Everything else had to fit into whatever time was left. Still, a lot of other things got done.

Most important among them was driving. Fran had to get the three children to all their activities.  Living in the country and going to school in town always involves driving. Church, 4-H, and sports all call for transportation. And, of course, the taxi driver was Mom (something she and today’s moms have in common.) Sometimes it seems that a driver’s license will someday be required for entrance into the delivery room.

Life as a farm wife actually gave a woman a lot of power in one regard: the house and children were totally her domain. Fran didn’t tell Sam how to run the farm, and he didn’t tell her how to run the household. She loved the independence of farm life.

“It’s a wonderful way to live,” she says. “You don’t have any boss other than Mother Nature.”  She calls farming “more a way of life than a job.”

“It’s an attitude,” she says, and notes she was “…thrilled to death to have a family and have fun outside.”

Fun, as she recalls, was far different than what the computer crowd would recognize.  If the dog had pups, that was an event. It was fun.

Other fun came in the form of an annual square dance in the barn. She, of course, cooked for the whole crowd, and they had wonderful times in the simple manner of country folks enjoying music and each other.  The parish priest was a frequent dinner guest. August was the month of annual family vacations.

The Bible says to “practice hospitality.” It’s something Fran and countless other farm wives have done through the years. It isn’t a chore. It’s a way of life.

Join this year’s Food for Thought theme at the 15th annual Spirit & Place Festival, held November 5-14, 2010, for more reflections on food and life.

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