Home for the Holidays: Farm Shop Becomes a Party Space for Growing Family
When the extended family outgrew the farmhouse, we moved the holiday parties to the farm shop.
Tractors relocate to make room, the concrete floor gets scrubbed and Christmas carols replace country tunes on the speakers. The cousins bond in this wide-open space, a makeshift gymnasium for kicking balls, shooting hoops and riding pedal tractors.
Like many families, mine lives its fondest traditions at the close of the calendar year. We bake cookies, shop for gifts, mail holiday greetings, gather with family and decorate to satisfy my personal obsession with Christmas trees. At both Thanksgiving and Christmas, we celebrate the season’s downtime with some of the same relatives we harvested with for about 60 days in the fields, yet we still intertwine our passion for the farm with the festivities. Holiday talk at the conference room table centers around tractors, corn and cattle. Farm life even influences the gift giving, with toy tractors for the little guys and tools for big ones.
See more: Heirloom Recipes for the Holidays
We overeat from a potluck of favorite holiday foods, often inspired by generations of farmwife cooking: family-recipe ham, homemade butterhorn rolls and candied sweet potatoes like no other. My cousin bakes some of the most beautiful and delicious pies, a nod to our grandma, a two-time master pie baker at the local farm festival.
On one side of the family, Granny rings an old cowbell to summon silence for a prayer of thanks before the meal, made affordable by farm families across the nation. The American Farm Bureau Federation annually reports the cost of a turkey dinner with the classic fixings at under $5 per person, even with a slice of pumpkin pie. The pumpkin in that pie likely came from Illinois, the nation’s No. 1 producer of pumpkins.
See more: Memories Around the Tree Glow Bright
In that spirit, the table’s Thanksgiving centerpiece includes the kids’ farm-grown pumpkins mixed with antlers shed by deer the guys found in the fields. By Christmas, we hang galvanized snowflakes in the office and shop, string tractor-shaped lights and place ornaments of cows, pigs and garden produce on the tree.
Near the party’s close at dusk, a floodlight draws attention to the wreaths on the barn’s double front doors. Atop the grain storage bin, a homemade star illuminates to spread the holiday spirit to anyone traveling that gravel road. On a few nights, those travelers may see lights glowing from every window of the farm shop and office, an indication that our farm family is partying inside.
About the Author: Joanie Stiers’ family grows corn, soybeans and hay, and raises beef cattle and backyard chickens in west-central Illinois.