Farmers who were art students

Although I grew up in farming country, surrounded by and immersed in agriculture, I didn’t know I wanted to be a farmer; I thought I wanted to be an artist.  I loved drawing and making things from as far back as I can remember, and my passion led me to this area for the first time in 1997, when I visited and then applied to Alfred University in Alfred NY.  After taking a year off to work, I started classes in 1999 and proceeded to have some of the most fulfilling and formative years of my life.

I’m sometimes asked if I feel like I wasted my time and money on a BFA, since I now make my living as a farmer.  I’m not sure what the answer is to that question, but I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today without that experience.  As to whether I’m only a farmer and not an artist… I’m not sure it’s that clear cut.

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While I was at Alfred I remember a trip to the local hardware store.  Once I got everything I needed, I headed to the front.  The owner of the store was behind the counter; I knew he was the owner because art students visit the hardware store a lot.  Also he had a mustache and suspenders.  He looked down at the counter and chuckled.  On it were: 5 hinges (all of different sizes), a meathook, copper wire, 4 different sized nails, a length of fine chain, a ladle, and a bottle of UV glue.  “You’re an art student,” he said.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“Art students buy incomprehensible stuff like this little collection,” he said.  “All the rest of the students have endless different excuses for why they need to buy vinyl tubing and funnels.”

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Here’s some of the things art students know.  They know their way around a hardware store.  They know how to use tools, and make things with their hands.  They notice all the small little beautiful things around them that other people don’t notice.  They know how to care about what they do enough to dig deep after a long day, and work for 2 more hours.  They know how to appreciate beauty where they find it.  They know how to look at a problem and build their own solution out of scrap wood, duct tape, and bailing wire.  They know how to design their own logo.  They know how to take a product photo.  They’re interested in learning about everything, from microbiology to color theory.  They know how to live on very little money.

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The other day I was at the hardware store.  Once I got everything I needed, I headed to the front.  The owner of the store was behind the counter; I knew he was the owner because farmers visit the hardware store a lot.  On the counter I had: tin snips, a hose, chalkboard paint, red electrical tape, pink flagging, 3 different size bolts with nuts, dishwashing gloves… and yes, a funnel.  Turns out I’m an artist after all.

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