This Labor Day, many people will enjoy cookouts and end-of-the-summer trips to the lake or other vacation spots. Summer is in its last gasps as autumn starts its season with cooler nights and pumpkin spice on every edible imaginable. For me, it is time to start turning out the Born Again Quilts shop windows. First come the scarecrows and pumpkins, followed a few weeks later with the friendly Frankensteins and black cat figures that have delighted passersby for years.
Labor Day is a day to reflect on the people who fought for better work conditions for workers, both in terms of earnings and safe working conditions. Many thanks to farmers who experience one of the highest percentages of work-related accidents. The 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America, with 573 fatalities, or an equivalent of 23.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. The news reported on August 23 that Grabill farmer Thomas Schmucker died on August 18 after he bled out due to a farm accident bringing unimaginable tragedy close to home. Since many accidents occur during harvest, the third week of September has been designated as National Farm Safety and Health Week. Despite all the dangers associated with farming, farm families have held to their principles of growing food for generations. Since its inception in 1976, the Hoosier Homestead Award has given nearly 6000 awards to farm families for their 100th, 150th, and 200th years of family farming. To qualify, farms must be owned by the same family for more than 100 consecutive years, consist of 20 acres or more, and produce more than $1,000 in agricultural products per year.
A couple of weeks ago, I made my annual jaunt to the Maumee Valley Antique Steam and Gas Association Show with my brother Richard in tow. This show holds special memories for us as my mother, who recently died, grew up on a farm, and into our mid-twenties, we would visit our grandparents’ farm where meals were cooked on a woodburning stove, and we enjoyed eating rabbit and corn fresh from the field. Blood pudding: Not so much! My grandfather Simpson Poppe was known to be an excellent butcher, and back in the days when farmers gathered for a “butchering,” they knew if he was involved, it would be a good day.
Back in the mid-1990s, I worked for the ATTAIN (Accessing Technology Through Action in Indiana) Project. ATTAIN’s mission was to help people with disabilities obtain access to assistive technology devices and the professionals who could assist them in obtaining the devices to best fit their unique needs. ATTAIN partnered with other programs, including Breaking New Ground out of Purdue University. According to their website, “Since its inception in 1979, the Breaking New Ground Resource Center in Purdue’s Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering has become internationally recognized as the primary source for information and resources on rehabilitation technology for persons working in agriculture.” BNG would have a presence at the Indiana State Fair and at the annual Fort Wayne Farm Show. Working collaboratively, I would work with the BNG staff to engage with attendees and familiarize them with resources for their physical challenges. It was fulfilling to listen to farmers talk about how they jerry-rigged or adapted tools to keep on farming!
A visit to the MVASGA Show would not be complete without a visit to the quilt show. Each year brings a new batch of amazing quilts to be viewed and judged as the attendees’ favorites. My favorite quilt I learned was voted #2! The quilt was created by Sheri Baatz for her son Edward. Sheri purchased the center panels and coordinating fabrics and designed the quilt. She machine embroidered images depicting important events and milestones in Edward’s life with many farm theme fabrics: A true labor of love!
So, as we all choose how we wish to labor, let the words of 13th-century poet Rumi guide you, “May the beauty of what you love be what you do!
Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts. If you have a textile story you’d like to share, contact her at 260-515-9446 or email@example.com