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My oldest son recently “graduated” from preschool. In the endearing ceremony, each of the children was asked what they want to be when they grow up. His precocious, divergent, and unanticipated response was, “I want to be a farmer like my dad.” And I couldn’t have been more proud.

To be sure, I’m hardly a “farmer” in any real sense of the word. Yes, I do work hard to scratch out a good-sized family garden each year in this high-desert habitat, and in our five years here we’ve planted an orchard and built a large chicken coop, among other interventions. So while I definitely get my hands dirty and spend a fair bit of time building soil and coaxing vegetables from the granite and clay, my skills are much closer to the hobby side of the coin than anything that can rightly be termed “farming.”

All of which makes my son’s statement even more powerful to me. He knows that I’m a teacher and that I write a lot, and surely I spend much more of my working time at home on these pursuits than I do on farming. But such cerebral matters are largely invisible to a small child, taking place silently within the confines of a personal computer. Our garden, orchard, and farm animals, by contrast, exist in a tangible and collective manner that registers on a deeper level in the eyes of a child.