On the farm until the pigs fly: A country childhood
Jenna Gerber, Guest Writer
On a dewy morning in the spring, a young Magdalena Scotto runs out to the barn at daybreak. Hearing the moos, she has bottles in hand ready to feed the hungry calves, one of the necessary tasks she needs to complete before she goes to school at 8:45 a.m. Inside there are around 50 hungry calves that patiently wait their turn to be fed. Each calf is bottle-fed by either Scotto or her brother, and takes a total of one and a half to two hours to complete.
Since birth, Scotto has lived on a farm. Her father grew up on a 40-acre farm in Oregon, and once married, acquired a 20-acre farm in Yelm, Wash. Living on a farm was a lifestyle choice, so her family doesn’t rely on it for financial stability.
On the forest side of the property, there are many fruit trees, including cherry, apple, and pear. During the winter, most of the extra land floods over, creating a “pond,” so it becomes the perfect spot for duck hunting. Being the smart businessman, her father rents out this area for duck hunting, which is one of the ways they make money. They are also fairly popular in the hay business, and make a fair amount selling hay bales.
Scotto has spent countless hours riding tractors, watching her parents tend to the farm animals, watering plants, collecting eggs, keeping her mom company while she canned pie fillings and jellies, and playing with her siblings making forts and hiding in the haystacks. As she got older, she took on more responsibilities, like training lambs and pigs to show at the county fair, hosted by an organization called Future Farmers of America (FFA). The FFA chapter in Yelm is said to be the largest chapter in Washington, and is almost more popular than sports. By the time she graduated from high school, she had been participating in FFA activities for five years.
“You could either do the farm side of it, and show animals at fairs, judge livestock, or you could do more of the leadership side, and you could compete in resume building, extemporaneous speaking, and marketing plans.” Scotto describes that for the leadership side of things, everything is agricultural based – marketing, business, science: with the requirement to be connected to real-life facts and events. This event happens monthly, and is a way for the whole community to come together to support the youth of Yelm. However, “it’s not just about sows, plows, and cows, but also speakers, beakers, and job-seekers.” FFA exposes youth to the business side of things – advocating farming and public speaking, the science behind the “right” way to produce product, and the careers and jobs that the industry as a whole offers.
Scotto clarifies: “FFA wasn’t the reason why we lived on a farm; it was just a bonus. Our parents just wanted us to do something to get us out of the house and it was a way for us to be involved.” Through FFA, Maggie was able to take on the responsibility of raising, training, showing, and selling either sheep, goats, or pigs, at county fairs.
Aside from her FFA involvement, Scotto had many other tasks on the farm. She would shear the sheep during the spring and summer months. She also helped her father with the hay business, and raked hay. She describes that, in the summer, there is a certain sweet smell, mostly from the fresh hay, that comforts her and can bring back all her childhood memories. During the winter months, there was less time to do the “fun” things, and their main priority is the health of the animals.
I asked Scotto if she had a choice to could go back in time and relive her childhood and she replied: “I think it’s kind of how it shaped me, living on a farm has shaped me to be who I am. I definitely wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but on a farm. I think when I grow up, I have to have some acreage; I couldn’t live in the city. I don’t know, it’s my hometown roots, I can’t just not do it again.”
Upon visiting her farm, I can definitely see the appeal; all the things that keep you busy during the day allow you to be more connected in your community, and less connected to a television or computer screen. I even held one of the 3-day-old baby goats. I know we all think about ways we could manipulate our own past to make it more interesting to experience what we consider “unordinary.” You would assume that perhaps she wouldn’t even want to be near another goat, or sheep, because she’s been around it for 18 years. But, it’s the complete opposite. She plans to pursue the farming lifestyle when she gets married and has a family of her own.