I am not a farmer – per se.
Before I elaborate, I should point out that I do recognize “per se” is often a euphemism for: “What I just said isn’t reallllyyy all that true, but I’m hoping this fancy term will deflect from that.” Such as: “My including Doritos as a major food group to my daily diet since last April is not the cause of my 26-pound weight-gain – per se.”
But I do feel that the term, here, is appropriate – humbling, even – and an honest lead-in to my first column in, after all, a farming publication. You see, while I’m not a farmer, I have farmed. There’s a difference.
Yes, my wife and I did play a role in helping out on her family farm when we relocated here from rural Winchester more than 20 years ago. Indeed, I slogged hog manure, stacked bales, helped with de-horning cattle, assisted in the birth of a calf and even regularly drove her father’s tractor – a feat I learned to conquer once I figured out that thing raises the bucket and that other thing makes a grinding sound unless I put the weight of a grain bin on the clutch and scream many hyphenated curse words. Though, admittedly, I’m less convinced the latter had any positive effect. Because, remember, I’m not a farmer – per se.
We also now live on our own farm east of Lindsay, which a wonderful neighbour farmer – the real, not the per se kind – pulls hay off of. I can say “pulls hay off of,” despite not being a real farmer. I checked with him and he approves. (I was wearing a Carhartt hat – backwards – when I inquired, which I’m sure emboldened my case).
We also keep laying hens and raise our own meat birds from day-olds to crock pot. Notice how I wrote “meat birds” and not “chickens.” I’ve been approved, at least, to use that farm vernacular.
Me: Good day, madam. I’ll take two large bags of food for chickens-who-lay-eggs. And might I also inquire about the purchase of 50 baby chickens that will grow to a size large enough to consume?
Feed Store Owner: Uh, you mean lay mash? And meat birds?
Me: Yes. I do believe those are the proper agricultural terms, according to my Wikipedia search. I just didn’t want to assume I was worthy to use them.
Feed Store Owner: Of course you are! I mean, you ARE wearing Carhartt overalls. But might I suggest you DON’T wear them backwards?
Me: Oh. I assumed they had to match my hat.
This isn’t all about humility, either. It’s about empathy. You see, I’ve spent the past 30 plus years as a professional, touring standup comedian – and, therefore, also as a culinary expert when choosing small town roadside diners. (Hint: if you don’t see “beef-on-a-bun,” or PLAIN EGG – yes, capital letters – on the menu, leave). And it always infuriates me when someone who’s taken the monthly amateur night stage once – ONCE! – at their local O’Belchy’s Roadhouse, has the temerity to decree: “Hey, look! I’m now a standup comedian!” Not an aspiring or amateur or wanna-be standup comedian. Just “standup comedian,” blurring the line between comic material that takes years to hone, and regaling your imbibed buddies in the audience with expletive-filled, meandering tales of doing donuts in the school parking lot with mum’s minivan. It’s a proclamation that wouldn’t be – shouldn’t be – tolerated in any other field or profession. A few weeks ago I had to replace the drain basket in our kitchen sink. Last summer, I added a hose clamp to the water line in our barn. That I had to take a nap following each of those tiny tasks serves to reinforce the fact that I am NOT a plumber. I’m merely a guy who can read instructions – before ripping them up out of frustration, then taping them back together again in teary-eyed resignation.
So while I’m not a farmer, please know that I have a sincere respect for those who are farmers, and, I believe, some genuine relatability for what they do. I also have an earned affinity for rural life. And much of what you’ll see in this space will honour and celebrate this with lightness and laughter. Because I am, after all, the FINEST HUMOUR COLUMNIST OF THIS CENTURY! Per se.
Denis Grignon is a standup comedian and journalist and host of The Advocate Podcast: Stories from Kawartha Lakes. He lives near Lindsay. Reach him via cleancomedian.ca