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Hanging Cleats Up
There is a stereotypical image that surrounds professional athletes. When you think of big names in sports your mind automatically jumps to parties, fast cars, mansions, and a luxurious lifestyle that the common man couldn’t possibly grasp. For some of these individuals, the appeal of these finer things can lead to an unfortunate fall from grace if not enjoyed properly.

Not all athletes succumb to this negative image though, and some make very successful and spiritually fulfilling lives for themselves. A surprising retirement plan for some of those sports heroes is what you are I are all too familiar with, and not something we would think ex-millionaire sports legends would opt to: farming.

Last week on social media, we shared the story of Denver Broncos All-Pro linebacker Von Miller, who has divulged his lifelong dream of becoming a poultry farmer – he even claims to have a small operation underway right now!

Miller is no stranger to chickens though, he studied and raised them in college and even reportedly has chicken tattoos. Currently he owns between 40 and 50 chickens that are housed in a coup in his backyard, but he plans to grow his operation. He said,

“That’s what Miller Farms is, it’s very humble beginnings right now. It’s very small and intimate but I plan on taking it to a whole other level and I’m excited about the opportunity to be able to do that and relationships I can build with all the chicken farms across the world.”

We definitely wish him luck in his endeavors, and the world can always use more food producers. His dedication to poultry, though, has gotten us interested in this interesting relationship between professional athletes and farmland; so, we decided to take a look and see if we could find any other athletes hanging up their sports footwear in favor of work boots.

Athlete Farmers

John Gerdy, a professional basketball player who was drafted for the NJ Nets and played in the Continental Basketball Association. now lives on a small Conestoga, PA, farm with his wife and two children.

Former NBA star Brad Miller retired from his 14 year career to 900 acres of farmland where he happily hunts, fishes, and rides four-wheelers to his heart’s content.

Giovanni Carmazzi, a once San Francisco 49ers quarterback that was selected ahead of Tom Brady in the 2000 NFL draft, now lives two hours north of San Francisco and is a small goat farmer.

Raef LaFrentz was pulling in over $12 million from the Portland Trailblazers at one point in his 11-year NBA career, and retired to buy a farm in Decorah, Iowa. After having surgery on both knees and a shoulder LaFrentz toils away like any other agriculturalist, producing food for those around the world.

These men once knew great fame and fortune, and yet gave it all up to become ordinary (although anyone who produces food for the world is more than ordinary) farmers. They do not fit the stereotype. There are even some athletes who have not left their positions yet and farm part-time, in the offseason.

MLB Pitcher Ross Ohlendorf is the proud owner of a longhorn ranch in Texas. During the season he handles the website and advertising, but during the off-season he is on the ranch getting his hands dirty. “Ranching,” he says, “is pretty much all I do in the offseason.” His father runs the operation when he is away, but they do not have any employees on their family farm.

Great men come in all shapes and sizes, but these professional athletes who have abandoned their grandiose lifestyles in favor of turning soil and producing food are true idols for Americans.

Jason Brown

One of the most dedicated of these athletes to farming is Jason Brown. Once considered the best center in the NFL and recipient of a $37 million dollar five-year contract from the St. Louis Rams, Brown gave it all up for a life of service. With no farming or agricultural experience he used Youtube and help from local farmers is Louisburg, N.C. where he purchased his land.

Brown opened what he calls “First Fruits Farm,” and his plan is to give the first fruits of every harvest. In his first year he donated over 100,000 pounds of sweet potatoes from just 5 acres of his 1,000. Once his operation is in full swing, it could go a long way towards ending hunger and food insecurity, at least In North Carolina. Watch his amazing story in this CBS report:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/former-nfl-player-farms-for-good/

“When I think about a life of greatness, I think about a life of service.”

We couldn’t agree more Jason.

Farming is hard. It takes hours and hours of toiling away in the dirt to harvest a modest crop each year. So it is easy to see athletes making the transition to the farm. Ross Ohlendorf put it this way,

“They both involve a lot of hard work, physically. When I was younger my dad would have my brother and I work on fences. We would have to fix the fence, carrying posts and wire pretty far, so we certainly learned to work hard and not complain, which I think helped with the physical demands of baseball.”

Athletes, like farmers, are used to training hard and demanding a lot from their bodies. In both cases you need strength, endurance, and even courage. In both farming and athletics, injury is easy and common. There are things that the individuals cannot control, and they just have to ‘roll with the punches.’

There are so many similarities that although it seems to be a strange relationship, it makes sense.

If you were a professional athlete, would you still retire to do your part in feeding the world?

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