A Publication of WTVP


by Emily Sharkey |

Farming is a profession that requires a lot of faith

As my husband Rob and I travel the country speaking and taping TV segments and doing interviews, we have had the opportunity to talk with so many farmers, ranchers and good folks in agriculture. Not surprisingly, our conversations often begin with “what do the crops look like out your way? Did ya catch those rains last night?”

And inevitably, they end with some frustration and the “well, there is nothing I can do about Mother Nature anyway, so …”

I remember watching things get increasingly drier day by day in June this year, so much so that I thought we wouldn’t have a crop. We prayed for rain and felt the sting of disappointment when the only pop-up shower all month came so close to the farm we could smell it, but then sadly not one drop fell. I remember walking into the house feeling disappointed and more than a little discouraged. It’s amazing how missing a rain that your neighbor got to enjoy makes you feel singled out and forgotten.

That’s why farming can be so different from other professions. We can work harder than anyone in the county to make strategic, penny-pinching decisions in all areas of the farm, but still lose a crop to things we can’t control. I remember thinking well, this might be that dreaded year we don’t harvest much of anything.

And then, July came and so did the “million dollar” saving rains. We watched our corn shoot up inches every day and the beans start to fill out like the chubby cheeks on a toddler. It brought us such joy and we were thankful.

As farmers, we always think we know just what to pray for when it comes to the weather. We study what all the ideal conditions are and we get so caught up in it. I used to tease Rob and tell him to just text me hour by hour on what to pray for regarding the weather because I would never get it right.

What we didn’t see, and most definitely didn’t appreciate in June in Illinois, was that while the soil was cracking on the surface and the dirt devils were swirling down our rows, through that dry period our corn was shooting down deep roots searching for any bit of hidden moisture. While the corn was rolling to protect itself from the relentless sun and heat, it was setting the very roots that would see it through the toughest part of summer.

What we couldn’t see ahead was, just as the cicadas started singing, the rain shut off again in August, and our crop would have to rely on its deep roots to see it through to harvest. If the crop hadn’t struggled, it wouldn’t have been equipped to utilize the saving July rains. It would have had to rely on shallow roots and probably would have toppled over in the first wind storm that came along, because that’s what always happens.

Sometimes I feel like that corn plant rolling in the heat trying to protect myself from the relentless onslaught of the sun. Most recently, I was able to relate to the field leveled by an unexpected derecho. Maybe I needed reminding that God is always there in tough times, that he can see a bigger picture, forcing me to dig down deep and rely on his strength to see me through the “droughts” in life.

Farmers pride themselves on their abilities to manage their farms effectively. We take calculated risks, we invest in new technology, we try new techniques, or we buy more efficient equipment, all in the hopes of improving our yields and profitability. We pour over seed genetics, read countless articles from agronomists we trust, and challenge the latest and greatest information on nutrients.

Yet again, it’s all the things we can’t control that often make or break a crop. Farmers very much believe that “I’m going to do everything I can to do my part,” even if the weather has other plans. That’s what keeps us working so hard.

But more importantly, we need to be reminded that even in the most painful times, when we are often so angry that things aren’t going to plan, or when a storm literally takes us out for a while, God can give us strength. Little by little, he will rebuild the “structure” that was damaged in the storm and remind us he has been working on it all along.

I pray God gives you strength. Keep swimming forward through the worst of times and keep showing up even when you don’t feel like it, as God loves us. And remember 2 Corinthians 5:7: We live by faith, not by sight.

Emily Sharkey

Emily Sharkey

Emily Sharkey is one half of the dynamic duo that make up “The Shark Farmer” broadcasting company. She and husband Rob Sharkey till the land at the family’s fifth-generation farm in the Bradford area. Their “A Shot of Ag” program appears regularly on WTVP PBS