By KEVIN RICHARDS
For the Capital Press
Mom has farmed with my dad in Madras, Ore., since 1989. They manage roughly 500 irrigated acres of carrot seed, grass seed, alfalfa, peppermint and wheat. To grasp how exceptional my mother is, you have to understand the path she took to become a farm mom.
In the 1980s, my parents gave up a comfortable lifestyle working city jobs -- and raising the occasional feeder calf -- to relocate their family to Central Oregon and become full-time farmers. They made incredible personal sacrifices and took great financial risk to pursue a lifestyle that fulfilled their passion for family, hard work and country living. This is rare in an industry that is becoming more consolidated and capital intensive.
My Mom is an example to aspiring young farm and ranch moms who are wary of the risk associated with starting from scratch to cultivate a lifestyle that honors the modern, hard-working, educated woman without giving up the more traditional roles of a wife and mother.
Her role on the farm: Mom is truly indispensable on the farm. "Does the books" is an understatement. She is a licensed tax preparer, does all accounting and payroll, keeps extensive field records, and ought to teach classes on effective grant writing for environmental conservation investments.
On top of that, I doubt I could name a farm task she isn't capable of. To name a few, she is head baler during haying season and she was instrumental in converting a portion of the farm to drip irrigation.
Her passion for agriculture: Mom strives to be a leader in our agriculture community. She regularly serves on advisory committees for the local university extension service and agriculture research center. When we were young, she launched a program to teach farm safety to middle school kids -- it was so successful we helped turn the program into a video and distribute it regionally. And, over the years she has been a regular visitor to our state capital to advocate for agriculture and rural youth programs.
Her contribution to community: The list goes on -- Mom has coached soccer, founded the first youth wrestling club in town, earned her honorary chapter and state FFA degrees, served on the local watershed conservation advisory council, participated in community service programs, and encouraged healthy living in our community by contributing to (and winning!) local road races, swim meets and triathlons.
Why we love her: My siblings and I are most thankful for Mom's distinct contribution and boundless support for our individual achievements. My brother owns a successful electrical company -- due in large part to the business sense he learned from Mom. My sister inherited a drive that has led her to work as an engineer on space shuttles at Cape Canaveral and for the world's leading semiconductor company; yet somehow she still finds time to put the skills learned from 4-H projects with Mom to good use on the sewing machine and in the woodshop.
And I'm confident it was some of Mom's adventure-seeking genes -- how many people can boast that they have skydived and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with their mother? -- that inspired me to explore the world, eventually landing in Washington, D.C., to work on federal agriculture policy.
But despite our work away from the farm, we are always drawn back to the land where we grew up and Mom's kitchen. That's why my brother and his wife are building their new home on the family farm, so "Nanie" can help raise their three young daughters -- perhaps there is at least one future farm mom in the bunch!
Kevin Richards, is an agriculture biotechnology and regulatory policy specialist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. He grew up on his family's farm in Madras, Ore., and lives in Washington, D.C.
His mother, Nancy Richards, just celebrated her 54th birthday.