For Immigrant Farmers, a Harvest of Fellowship

By Kovach, Tom R. | The Christian Science Monitor, January 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

For Immigrant Farmers, a Harvest of Fellowship


Kovach, Tom R., The Christian Science Monitor


My parents, Hungarian immigrants, came to America in the early part of the 20th century. (My father arrived in 1912, having just missed sailing on the Titanic, and my mother in 1922.) They both came from rural backgrounds and were anxious to have their own farm in America. After my father worked in the coal mines of West Virginia, the woods of northern Michigan, and in factories from Ohio to Wisconsin, he finally saved enough money to buy a farm in Pennsylvania. Their American dream was a reality.

But it took some getting used to. Farming in America was on a much bigger scale than the small farms my mom and dad knew in rural Hungary. The weather was different, as was the terrain and the machinery. As my father told me about that first summer on their farm, I could well realize the anxiety he must have felt.

"I probably cut down more hay than I should have," he told me. "Your sister Mary was just a baby and your brother Joe was due to be born in a couple of months. Although your mother tried to help me as much as possible, I was very worried about her with the baby coming due and all."

My father had bought some good horses. They pulled that mower as if they knew what they were doing and even seemed to be enjoying themselves, Father recalled. After the mowing, he took a dump rake and started making piles where the hay could dry out, later to be picked up with a wagon. But this was before hay balers or even hay loaders. The hay had to be pitched on wagons by hand. This involved a lot of hard work and, even more important, time. Depending on the weather, time can be a crucial factor for farmers ... especially in those days.

When it came time to bring the hay in and stack and cover it from the elements, dark clouds started gathering on the horizon.

"I told your mother," my father said, " 'Those clouds don't look good. I better get on that hay.' "

Mother wanted desperately to help, but Father wouldn't hear of it. But as he started to pick up the hay, sweat pouring down his brows, he knew he was in an uphill battle.

Then something wonderful happened. "As I drove the team out to the hay fields for another load, I suddenly saw a team of horses and a wagon come into my field. Then another team and a wagon! Then another! Before long there were about six teams and wagons out there. The neighbors had arrived!"

Since Father was new in the neighborhood, both pride and shyness, plus the feeling of being an outsider, constrained him from asking the neighbors for help.

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