Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Ann Clarke came to America to learn; she w...

Ann Clarke came to America to learn; she was also a great teacher. She completed a two-year college agricultural program in England and wanted to learn about American farm chemicals and farm machinery. She was a member of Young Farmers Club in England and had applied for an international farm youth exchange in 1960.

Ann was the most qualified applicant, but a Welsh farm girl was chosen for the trip because she was poor. Disappointed at not being chosen for the exchange, Ann arranged her own trip to America. She wrote to land grant colleges, including MU, offering to work for room and board “and perhaps a bit of spending money, if I’m worth it.” The extension service arranged her visit here, and she taught us more than we taught her

By her way to Columbia, the Wabash train from Centralia stopped and Ann grabbed her camera and stepped off the train. The conductor and another man were trying to get a cow off the tracks! The cow moved, the trainmen got back on and everybody was yelling that Ann was still out there. Ann adjusted her camera. Unruffled, she climbed back on the train. To rush was not one of her top priorities.

Nancy, 11, and Walt, 9, were eager to entertain Ann that first afternoon, while I taught swimming classes. After lunch the three dug fishing worms from the garden. They caught some little perch and released them back into the pond. Our habit was to toss the worms in, to feed the fish, but this time they took the extra worms back to the garden and “planted” them.

We were eating supper when Walt said, “Fishing worms make the soil rich!” Ann smiled. Walt continued, “They eat a lot of rotten stuff and after it goes through them they call it ‘castings,’*” Nancy added, “And those tiny worm holes are tubes that take air and water to the roots of plants.” Ann smiled and said, “Earthworms are like unpaid hired hands, enriching the soil by just living there.”

Nancy went for the World Book, a habit we have, even if it interrupts a meal! Learning enriches lives, just as worms enrich the soil. Nancy read aloud, “In an acre of farmland, worms deposit about 10 tons of fertile castings in one year. One worm has 10 hearts and two sets of sex organs, one male and one female ... if a worm gets chopped in two pieces, the part with the stomach will survive.” Great table conversation.

We learned that the Clarke farm in Sussex produced almost twice as many bushels of wheat per acre as did our neighbors’ farms. Apologetically, Ann explained, “In America you can buy more land but in crowded England we can’t do that. We must constantly keep working to produce as much as possible, on what we have.”

Many years later we visited Ann and her husband on their very busy “Pick Your Own” farm. People came from Hastings, and even from London, to buy farm-fresh produce. As we sat on a sunny bench and watched the lush fruit and vegetables being weighed, and the money rolling in, I was thinking about the millions of those “unpaid helpers that fertilize her soil and give it air and water.”

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