It was 14 degrees, nearly twice as cold as usual for a typical November in Iowa. But more than 5,800 people still showed up at Living History Farms at the break of dawn to run seven miles across the snow-covered farm fields, ice-caked streams and muddy ravines. As if the course wasn’t challenging enough, many runners wore costumes. I skipped the costume, but I was still eager to join this crazy bunch as they stumbled across fields and climbed up creek banks.
“Why?” my friends and family are still asking, probably because none of them run. I guess the easiest answer is this: common values. Runners at the Living History Farms race come in every size, age and ability. They live in other cities, states, even countries. But on that day, in that event, we all had a common goal; to enjoy nature while having fun. To run. To breathe. To sweat. To help each other get across the finish line, no matter the obstacles.
At one particularly tough spot on the course, I found myself slipping, trying to climb out of a muddy ravine, unable to get a foothold, sweat from the previous four miles plastered hair to the side of my face and froze. Hardly attractive. Yet from out of nowhere, a hand from an older runner reached out to pull me up. “You got this,” he said, then turned and kept running. When I cleared the edge, I turned around and helped a much-younger girl get out of the ravine. She helped a young boy clear the ravine. Over and over again, people worked together to climb out of the frozen ravine.
If only we could channel that same spirit, offer that same hand to reach across the divide that separates consumers from today’s farmers. Having lived in Iowa for a half-century and grown up on a century hog farm, I know there is room for, and a need for, diversity; some farmers will raise animals on a pasture, others in a feedlot or hog barn. All are farmers.