August 21st 2017 will be remembered by many in Oregon for the total solar eclipse we experienced. As for me, I’ll remember that day by the numbers. My wife Lisa and I gathered two other families from our suburban neighbourhood, including five children under the age of twelve, and drove forty–five minutes to our family farm in Amity. The intent was to give everyone the best view of a once in a lifetime event by camping out in the middle of a field.
We arrived at the farm about three p.m. on Sunday the twentieth. We immediately pitched five tents, ate three beer-can chickens and devoured twenty s’mores. We slept about six hours, conveniently being woke up by the volunteer fire department siren at two a.m. and the neighbor’s dog regurgitating a chicken bone at four-thirty. After the news helicopter did a flyover at five-thirty I trekked five hundred feet to the house and made five cups of coffee. We passed the rest of the morning with breakfast and talking about what to expect with the eclipse.
Shortly after nine, with the ISO-approved eclipse glasses in hand, we began to watch the moon slowly overtake the sun. About every five minutes I would look up and ask myself what percent of the sun was covered and when it would start getting darker. What amazed me was how bright the sky stayed even though more than ninety percent of the sun was behind the moon! As totality occurred I couldn’t help but feel a surreal and awestruck sense that I had never felt before. Standing in the middle of a valley and seeing a three hundred-sixty degree sunset is something I won’t soon forget. Everyone in the group was in a strange elevated state of giddiness.
One of the mothers thanked me with great enthusiasm for inviting them to the farm and said she hadn’t had so much fun in forever! I didn’t think much of it at the moment, since after the eclipse I thought it would be a good idea to put in a half day’s work. I took off toward St. Paul, which is normally a thirty minute drive. Three hours and two road closures later I arrived at work.
Reflecting on the eclipse and traffic-o-geddon, it wasn’t the three hour drive that stuck out to me. It was how much power the sun had with only a tiny percentage of energy getting to earth. It reminds me of the power that two percent of the US workforce has as it engages in agriculture, and how rarely the other ninety-eight percent has a chance to spend one day on the farm like that suburban mother and her two children.
That’s three people, and yet that one day shared with them had a huge impact.
Regardless of whether it’s a cosmic event like the eclipse, a planned Adopt a Farmer tour or a barn dance, people with limited farm exposure are more open to seeing the power of farming when they’re on the farm. My new goal is to get all of my urban acquaintances on the farm—one visit at a time. The farm has tremendous power! Maybe we owe part of it to the sun.