By Jessica Domel

Farming is harder, and more labor-intensive, than it looks. I know it seems pretty obvious, but I’ve spent a lot of time on our family’s farm, and I have to say, even I was shocked by the amount of tasks farmers accomplish in a single day. I’ve spent the greater part of the past two weeks traveling the state–from Harlingen to Lubbock–interviewing farmers about what they do for our Outstanding Young Farmer & Rancher competition. It’s been very interesting, to say the least. For the first time in my life, I touched sugar cane, which is much taller than you think. In Mercedes, near Harlingen, there were stalks about eight feet high.

Right across from that field, I touched soybeans for the first time, and took dozens of photos of each crop.

Soybeans in South Texas

I was also moved to see dozens of Brahman cattle crowd around their farmer to be petted and adored at feeding time.

Gentle giants

In Inez, near Victoria, the second largest catfish farmer in the state walked us through his day–everything from feeding the catfish, turning off all of the aerators on his 38 eight-acre ponds, to seining and harvesting fish.

Catfish harvesting

In our final trip for the series, our crew traveled to Lubbock where I watched a swather cut hay grazer, trudged through a cotton field, and watched the farmer deliver silage to his calves. I also found myself in the way during the unloading of one bull and the loading of another.

Bull on the move

At the end of each day, I called my father and told him he wouldn’t believe how tired I was. I think he laughed each time. You see, he is a farmer, and has been for most of his life, so he understands what it is like to have every muscle hurt at the end of the day. The funny thing is, I wasn’t actually working as hard as the farmers were. I just followed them around, took photos and asked questions. Then I thought, “How tired are they?”

I think sometimes we all forget how hard farmers and ranchers work to ensure our food supply is secure. I grew up on a farm, and just now am I reminded that it can be an exhausting, but rewarding task. Fish, beef, chicken and vegetables don’t just show up in our supermarkets. They’re there for us thanks to the men and women who work tirelessly day-in and day-out so we can enjoy a cheeseburger when we want one. So, thank you farmers. I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do.