Something Close to Family

On a small farm, animals are a link in the chain of life

| July-August 2011

  • something-close-to-family

    Corey Arnold /

  • something-close-to-family

I write this during the most bittersweet of our seasons here in Kansas. It’s either late fall or early winter, depending on my mood and the weather. Tomorrow it might be 20 degrees and driving sleet or it might be 70 and sunny.

It’s the time of year when we kill the animals—the cattle, sheep, and goats—we will eat next year.

Just a few months ago they were the blithe spirits of spring, filling the pastures with the joyful, bouncing exuberance of new life. Soon their meat will be in my freezers, and my friends’, on our tables, and, quite literally, part of us.

My wife and I raise most of our own food and earn a little income from our farm. But it’s more art than business. We draw a frame around our 50 acres of prairie. Nature fills it with color and motion. Every day brings new pigments, new images, and new performances. Every hour of the year is a revelation. The colors change. Some wild creature makes a sound we’ve never heard before. The sky delivers endless, vivid surprises on the grandest scale possible. New players cross the stage—wildlife and our closest associates, the cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens.

Some farmers may never stop to consider their animals as anything other than livestock—literally their inventory, their stock in trade.

To us they are partners, friends, entertainers, and something close to family. And then, of course, they are food.

8/14/2011 10:05:58 AM

Thank you for this. It is how I remember animals on our farm. I believe my parents always had a tear in their eye when they watched animals (mostly pigs and cattle, in our case) leave the farm for "the market."

steve eatenson
8/12/2011 1:08:13 PM

When we sophisticated white folks came to this land from our European ancestory we found savages living off the land and worshiping the Great Spirit rather than Jesus. We killed them off and stole their land because God gave it to us humans and the savage inhabitants of the Americas weren't quite human like us. We forced them to practice our Christian Religion because after all, it was our responsibility to save thier souls. Now that we are sophisticated and have evolved over the past 500 or so years, it's nice to see a few of us can kill our food with reverance. Of course, the Indians, before we killed most of them off, hunted for their food and thanked their food for providing them the sacrifice of their lives so that the Indians could live. They saw all life as a continuous circle of kinship ruled over by the Great Spirit that inhabited all things. We should be proud of our progress.

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