Farming or Football? I wasn’t always a farmer. Yes, “farmy” traits and perspectives have always been a part of my character ever since my childhood on a cattle ranch in Texas. But, my professional energies were once placed elsewhere. Some of you know this, some of you don’t. Some of my favorite moments on the farm involve visitors who look around then start asking questions about how-in-the-world we got here and why-in-the-world we are doing this. It’s not that I enjoy divulging my history or shocking people with some delusion that I am a  B-list (ok, C-list), has-been celebrity. My dark sense of humor kind of enjoys the way they look for the door like they want to get away from me. Like I am some weirdy telling big fibs about himself. Well, the weird part may be true. But the story is no fib.

My name is Hunter Smith. My wife is Jen Smith. We are the owners of WonderTree in Zionsville, IN. I graduated from Notre Dame in 1999 with a degree in Theology & Sociology. The same year my wife graduated from Taylor University with a degree in Psychology.   I will leave the details of how we came to own a farm and be farmers for another letter.  In short, I was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the spring of ’99. My NFL career lasted 12 years. 10 of these seasons were here with the Colts, including the blessing of being a part of the championship team from Super Bowl XLI.  My career concluded after a 2 year stint with the Washington Redskins. From there I started a band. Hunter Smith Band toured and recorded 2 albums over the course of its 8 year tenure. If few of you know about the football detail, trust me, even fewer of you know about the music. Both were worthwhile, fulfilling endeavors. However, nothing in my past efforts can ever compare to the joy of farming.

Sometimes in the aforementioned conversations on the farm people will ask me if I miss football. Or, which I like better–football or farming. Well, let’s contrast the two.

-I get to work on grass! Real grass. Modern football is played on some kind of artificial turf.

-WonderTree’s farming is good for the earth! We raise animals in ways that benefit the ground, the sky, humans, and animals. Professional football is, at best, a neutral effort in this regard. I should stop there on this point.

-Football is VERY temporary. The average NFL career is 2.5 years. That is taking into account people like me or, even more, people like Adam Vinatieri who has played 20+ years! My grandfather farmed all of his 80 some-odd years. I realize there are many circumstances that can end a farming career early. Still, I have met a lot of old, happy farmers who were well over 70 years old. I have never met an active NFL football player over the age of 47.  

-At WonderTree we provide food and experiences for people that are real and meet an actual need in their lives. Playing football is at best offering the rush of entertainment. At worst it offers a diversion or an escape. 

-Farming is a master class in big labor and small profit. Still, I have never made a dollar over these past few years as a farmer that I didn’t feel was earned honestly and honorably. The labor and income from our life as farmers has grown the good parts of my character.  By contrast, football is an over-inflated industry where the contracts and paychecks leave a lot of guys in unhealthy lifestyle cycles of expectation and enablement. People don’t want to talk about this, but it is true.

-I get to work with my children! At best my kids were just among the crowd when I was playing football.  

-At WonderTree we get to interact with YOU, our friends and customers, face to face. You don’t necessarily cheer for me, but you don’t scream expletives either. Typically we have wonderful, meaningful conversations. Football fans are far away in the stands. At WonderTree our customers are participants and friends. Not spectators. 

I am and will always be grateful for my time playing in the NFL. BUT, these are just a few of the reasons I, without question, choose farming over football. 

Plus, you never get Bud Lite thrown at you on a cold day by a bunch of drunks somewhere in the northeast. Ever!
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