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Living and farming with purpose

Holly Spangler rural sunset with train driving through the countryside
PURPOSE: Debbie and Danny Glover are who I thought of when our pastor laid down this line of wisdom last Sunday: “Make sure the things that matter are the things that matter to you.”
It’s too easy to count the years and lose the days, but the life of this farm family speaks volumes on wise living — and farming.

Debbie Glover once told me how she and her husband, Danny, were compelled to farm together. Not just as a farmer and a farmer’s wife — but as legitimate, indispensable partners farming the land.

Both in tractors. Both grinding feed. Both turning wrenches at 3 a.m. Both sorting hogs. Both throwing in a load of laundry at night.

“There was just lots to do,” she said. “We were partners out of necessity.”

I first met Danny and Debbie back home; they were farmers who raised corn, soybeans and hogs near Bone Gap, Ill. I noticed they worked together a lot. She did as much as he did in the field and the hog house. Several years later, I was in college, trying to write a story for a magazine writing class. Debbie agreed to an interview, and I learned how two kids who didn’t exactly grow up on farms learned to farm from scratch, together.

“Danny and I always worked together,” she told me back then. “When we’re working a field, he points a certain way and I know how he wants me to disk that field. We just read each other’s thoughts.”

Obviously, that’s some kind of mind-reading miracle, given the variety of sign languages farmers are known for and the volumes that have been written about how to decipher them. Talk about teamwork.

Courtesy of Debbie GloverDanny and Debbie Glover

TEAMWORK: Danny and Debbie Glover have lived lives of cooperation and partnership, service and kindness.

Danny passed away recently. He had shingles a few years back, then a series of complications, surgeries and a stroke. Debbie was his full-time caregiver. He was just 70, which sure isn’t as old as it used to be.

Teamwork on purpose

I think there are some folks you meet and pay attention to over your lifetime, watching how they do life, how they make decisions. What I’ve noticed about the Glovers during all these years is that they were a team — on the farm, in life, in ministry, in the community.

Danny and Debbie lived with purpose. And they farmed with purpose, too, knowing the land they farmed belonged to God, no matter whose name was on the deed. They were caretakers, doing their best.

They retired several years ago, renting their ground to Allen and Chad Broster — a father and son I’ve also written about, back in 2007. We ran their photo on the cover of Prairie Farmer, in a story about building grain storage that could grow with their farm. Kind people and good farmers. By all accounts, these two families have more than just a farming relationship, so it’s remarkable to imagine those expanding bins holding these folks’ crops.

Holly SpanglerAllen and Chad Broster on the cover of the September 2007 issue of Prairie Farmer magazine

INTERSECTION: Little did I know when I shot this cover photo back in 2007 that this family would end up farming with the Glovers. Good thing they planned for expansion.

Our pastor preached on Psalm 90 last week. That particular psalm speaks of the everlasting God, present long before the mountains, who reigns over a thousand years as if it’s a day. It speaks of a lifetime passing quickly and we fly away. Even 70 or 80 years.

It’s encouragement to spend days of purpose with a heart of wisdom, more than just working and running. I’m in the middle of my life, working and writing and running after kids. Loving my husband, trying to show up in my community. More days than not, I feel the urgent threatening to run over the important.

It’s too easy to count the years but waste the days.

Making a difference

Danny and Debbie have lived lives of cooperation and partnership, service and kindness. They came through the visitation line when my mom died and wanted to meet my in-laws. Debbie bought a quilt that my mom had made in a silent auction and sent it to me, throwing in an Illini mask because she knew we’d love it. She never fails to tell me she’s proud of me.

She and Danny are who I thought of when our pastor laid down this line of wisdom: “Make sure the things that matter are the things that matter to you.”

We all want our lives to count for something. We get a brief 70, 80, maybe 90 years, if we’re lucky. In the span of the world, that’s a whisper of time. If you’re younger, find folks to watch and learn from. If you’re older, be the folks others can watch and learn from.

In the end, we all leave behind a legacy. What will your life say about you?

Comments? Email holly.spangler@farmprogress.com.

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