Editor of the Iowa Soybean Review

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Rural Route 2: The greatest gift

December 1, 2023 | Bethany Baratta

It’s not something you can buy online. You can’t wrap it up in shiny paper, attach a shiny bow and gift it for Christmas. This year, our family’s top gift comes in the form of our neighborhood.

My family has been blessed with amazing neighbors our entire lives. I grew up knowing this, but it becomes especially evident when your family deals with what seems like months of recovery from a broken arm, hip surgery, and recently, a Guillain-Barré Syndrome diagnosis.

As I write this in early November, my dad is still in inpatient rehabilitation at a hospital near my parents’ home. In a matter of about 20 hours, my dad went from showing me the cattle on the farm to weakness in his legs. Within a day, he couldn’t stand on his own two feet. After several tests, doctors confirmed Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare disorder where the body’s immune system damages nerves. He spent several days in intensive care and is undergoing multiple weeks of intense physical and occupational therapy.

He’s expected to make a complete recovery, though it could take up to a year for the nerves to be repaired. The days get long at the hospital, but he’s determined to get back to the farm. He continues to follow the livestock and crop markets (thank goodness for technology). As the saying goes, “You can take the farmer off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the farmer.”

A few close to our family know the details of the injuries and recovery. There have been offers to help with our livestock and crops. Neighbors and friends have dropped off meals, and cards of well wishes are stacked on a pile on the kitchen island and lining the windowsill of my dad’s hospital room. We’re grateful for the support of our friends and our community.

While putting this issue together, I couldn’t help but think about the goodness of rural Iowa. It’s the way neighbors and friends are there to encourage each other following a diagnosis or crisis. It’s how farmers delay their own fieldwork to help neighbors in need. Would this happen anywhere else?

It’s also the humbleness when deserving farm neighbors receive an award but don’t think they do anything differently than their farm neighbors. Yes, farmers argue that they don’t deserve accolades. It’s the genuine approach our neighbors — and so many across the state — take in caring for their farm neighbors.

This Christmas, the greatest gift is our farm neighbors. That’s not something you can put in a box or a bag, or ship anywhere. It’s something you build, give, and receive yourself.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you all have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.