Perhaps you’re familiar with the Facebook sensation that’s sweeping the nation: Farmville. For those of you who aren’t, Farmville is like “The Sims” videogame, except it’s on Facebook. If the number of people I know who use it as their primary procrastination tool is any indication, Farmville is awesome. I don’t play Farmville. And here’s why: I’m actually from a farm. So for me, Farmville is kind of like Keith Richards playing “Rock Band.”
My fellow college students seem to think that harvesting virtual fields is fantastic, but it’s not exciting for me because I’ve actually helped harvest fields. There’s no novelty. For me, novelty is a city with more than one stoplight. And though Ann Arbor isn’t a large city in the grand scheme of things, to a girl from a town with only one high school, Ann Arbor is practically Metropolis.
I hail from the great village of Webberville, Michigan, not far outside of East Lansing. Population: 1,500 (give or take). My graduating class numbered 51. I grew up on 80 acres of farmland that my father, an engineer for General Motors, rents to his cousin, a career farmer, to plant. Usually, my father’s cousin plants corn or soy beans in our field. Very rarely, he plants wheat, and then it’s like living inside a Pepperidge Farm commercial.
When I tell people here at the University that I grew up on a farm, I get all sorts of questions. Among my favorites are: “Do you have, like, cows and chickens and stuff?” and “OMG! Do people drive their tractors to school?” I usually answer questions like this patiently, with a slight sense of annoyance. In case you’re curious, my family doesn’t own cows or chickens, but we do own horses, and my mother raises pigs.
And Webbervillians only drive our tractors to school once a year on Drive Your Tractor to School Day, sponsored annually by the Webberville Chapter of the FFA, which is a leadership organization based in agriculture. (This is not a joke. This actually exists.)
The grand total of Webberville Community High School graduates currently enrolled here at the University is four (Represent: Mike, Hannah and Jeanne). And I’m sure they’ve had some of the same experiences dealing with you fancy city-folk that I have. I’ve lived in Ann Arbor for three years and learned to navigate the things that made me uncomfortable at first. But my initial transition to Ann Arbor’s metropolitan, artsy and very liberal atmosphere was as jarring as putting Julie Andrews in a KISS video.
My first introduction to the new environment came on move-in day in the fall of 2007 at Mary Markley Hall. Or, more accurately, it came when I was introduced to my roommate, who was about as different from me as possible. Caitlin was easily 5’7”, as blonde as can be and easily beautiful. She looked like she belonged on “American’s Next Top Model.” Caitlin was from well-to-do St. Clair Shores, Michigan, was a liberal and was the most cosmopolitan person I had ever met. She had pink and lime green bedding, a whole bin full of high heels, and she promptly rushed a sorority. I was intimidated.
We passed most of the year in silence. Don’t get me wrong. She was a friendly person, and we got along quite well for two people who didn’t share any interests. We just didn’t have any common ground to start on, and so conversations were hard. Not having anything to say to someone — especially someone with whom I lived — was bizarre.
I also learned pretty quickly that safety was going to be different from that back home. I’d gotten the obligatory spiel from the Department of Public Safety at Orientation and I wasn’t stupid. I knew that it was easier to stay safe in Webberville, which doesn’t really have crime except for a few cases of superficial vandalism and speeding, than on a campus with 40,000 students. My father took it to the next level. He armed me with a safety flashlight (available at Cabela’s) and a guilt-inducing reminder to always carry it with me because he wanted me to “be safe, honey, because I love you and I don’t want anything to happen to you.” And they say that mothers are the masters of guilt-tripping.
I learned to deal, of course. And while I still get annoyed by sirens at night and the light pollution that obscures the stars, I think I’ve balanced my down-home desires with some big-city sensibilities.
But I’m still not such a city-slicker that I think that virtual orchards are fun. So stop sending me Farmville invitations.
Rachel Van Gilder is the Daily’s editorial page editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.