“Cowboy George” Perocchi, the father of writer Dale Bliss; date unknown. / Photo courtesy Dale Bliss

Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part series, “Life on the farm – a Memory.” Dale Bliss grew up on a farm in Plant City, in Hillsborough County, and shares her memory of the seasons of farm life there. This segment, which will be divided into two parts, is “Life on the Farm – Planting Season.”

Plant City, the “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World,” as most of its citizens like to refer to it, is where I grew up and still live.

My name is Dale Bliss, I am 54, and have lived most of my life on the same farm where I was born and still call home. It is an island all to itself of hard work, fond memories, and my father. Except for my brief stay in an even smaller town (Trenton, Fla.), I have carved out my life surrounded by quiet mornings, broken by the sounds of baby calves bleating for their breakfast and their mothers bellowing for their young.

I recall the sweet smell of fresh-cut hay, and the sight of the calloused hands of my father, just coming in from a long but satisfying day of many accomplishments and, sometimes, misadventures.

While sitting in your air-conditioned ranch-style home, in your favorite chair, maybe watching a movie about life on a farm, you might find it’s easy to romanticize this lifestyle. Maybe you think, “This is the life.”

Well, it is. If you have the stamina to get up at 4 a.m. (if you go to bed at all) on a cold winter’s morning, wondering if the freeze is going to destroy everything above-ground that you have worried about and managed to get into the ground and growing.

You bought the seeds for those plants with a loan from the local bank, where everyone knows your business. You’re the farmer, and the people you are dealing with are wearing suits, ties, and smug, self-satisfied smiles.

Only the hardiest need apply to be a farmer

In other words, “Farming is not for the faint at heart.” It also is not as it is seen on television. I have always thought that they should put one of those “viewer discretion advised” warning signs before they begin a television show about farming. It should read something like this: “To anyone thinking this is the life for me and my family,” go do it for one season (if you last a whole season); then come back, and we’ll talk.

My father, “Cowboy George” Perocchi (a nickname given by his friends), knew from early-on that he wanted to own his own land and to have his own truck farm.

Truck farming is farming on a smaller scale, using less costly equipment. It requires fewer employees, since most of the labor can be done by family members. The benefits of truck farming are lower costs and initial operating expenses, but the income is also less due to smaller crop yields.

Larger-scale farms have greater startup costs, including land and equipment. The equipment can be purchased or rented – which may require a line of credit from a bank and that could result in a lien on the property or other assets if the loan becomes delinquent.

The planting and subsequent harvest require more laborers, which creates more work to comply with state and federal regulations. Bigger risk, but the possibility of bigger profits – or much bigger losses.

Part 2 of this segment, “Life on the Farm – Planting Season,” will be posted on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Dale Bliss feels blessed to be able to live on the same Plant City farm where she was born and raised. Her father, “Cowboy George” Perocchi, called Dale his “little crate-maker” because she made wooden boxes for their vegetables.