I grew up to be the kind of adult I made fun of when I was a kid: a city-slicker.
I grew up in the country and learned my work ethic as a kid working for local farmers and ranchers. In the summer, I’d fry like an egg on a John Deere 2050 plowing a Kansas field or sweat every drop of water out of my body bucking hay bales into dilapidated barns. During the school year, I’d get up at 5 AM and milk cows at the local dairy then chop holes in the ice-covered pond with an ax.
I made fun of people who lived in the city; also known as city-slickers. A city-slicker was anyone who lived inside the city limits of a town any size, whether in New York City or Smallville.
But for the last three decades, I’ve become a city-slicker. Granted, I live in rural Kansas and am surrounded by pastures and cropland so I’m not too far away from a farm but I haven’t planted wheat or milked a cow in years. I’m sure the cows are grateful.
However, the more I’ve been engaged in the fight against hunger, the more I realize the importance of farmers and ranchers. Experts say that agricultural production has to increase by 75% in the next 35 years in order to feed the estimated 9 billion people by the year 2050. In the next 35 years, we have to produce more food than in the entire history of mankind.
A good friend of mine, Steve Baccus, just retired as President of the Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB)- a position he held since 1999. In a recent conversation, Steve made a comment about me being a member of KFB (like he assumed I had been forever). I stammered, then admitted I never joined. Steve was very polite and encouraged me to join. Then he threatened to drag me behind a JD 2050 in the hot sun and make me buck hay bales in the 110 degree Kansas heat.
Joking aside, I was disappointed that I hadn’t thought of that earlier. When I speak about hunger, I often spend a great deal of time talking about the importance of agricultural development and the Farm Bill. Therefore, it was a no-brainer to me to become a Kansas Farm Bureau member.
Life goes full circle because I’m now working for a farmer again. Floyd Hammer is the founder of Outreach, Inc. and refers to himself as just a farmer from Iowa. It is true, he has a lovely farm in the middle of some of the richest soil on earth, but Floyd saying he is just a farmer from Iowa is like Peyton Manning saying he plays a little football on Sunday afternoons. Floyd also started the first plastics recycling plant in the U.S.A. and is an entrepreneur at heart.
Floyd and his wife, Kathy, founded the Outreach, Inc. in their retirement and have grown it into an amazing international nonprofit that feeds hundreds of thousands of hungry people. A couple of years ago, Outreach acquired an 8,000 acre farm in Tanzania, East Africa.
I’m now working on a farm again. No, I’m not bouncing on a tractor in the hot sun; most of the work I do is with words and numbers writing business plans, proposals, and etc. I get the privilege of watching a vision unfold that is so grand in scale it staggers the imagination; starting from scratch with 8,000 acres of African soil and creating an holistic agricultural system. You can read more about Shallom Farm.
I’m now a member of the Kansas Farm Bureau. After Steve’s comment(he really didn’t threaten me, but if I didn’t join, he might have), it made perfect sense for me to become a KFB member. And here are my reasons why:
1. Agricultural development is the key to ending hunger. If we have to increase agriculture production by 75% in the next 35 years, then we need to support farmers in every way imaginable.
2. Farmers grow what we eat. That seems like a no-brainer, but there is a surprising lack of knowledge about where our food comes from. A friend of mine who is a teacher told a class that spaghetti grew in a field and every once in a while a spaghetti farmer would cut it down. 1/2 the class believed her. USDA has a great program called Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.
3. The Farm Bill is the single largest mechanism in the U.S. that helps feed the hungry. Did you know that 80% of the Farm Bill is about food and nutrition programs? I used to think the Farm Bill only concerned farmers, but then I discovered that the Farm Bill is the number one tool that our government uses to fight hunger.
4. Farmer are facing increased regulation by the government and need our support. President Ronald Regan was quoted as saying, “The 9 most dangerous words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Like most small businesses, increasing regulation and taxation makes it difficult to be a farmer. While the government touts small businesses as key to our economic future, they make it harder for small businesses to succeed.
5. Farmers are the most courageous people I know. When you consider all the risks involved in farming, it’s a wonder any of them sleep at night. For them to make any money, they make huge cash infusions up front on fuel, seeds, labor, and fertilizer, then wait for Mother Nature to take her own-sweet-little-cherry-pickin’-time to grow the crop. Along the way, a variety of things from pests to storms can obliterate a crop in a matter of hours or minutes. It takes a lot of courage to be a farmer.
One of the most inspirational times in my recent history was attending the FFA convention in Louisville where I wrote, Meet 56,000 of my New Heroes. FFA (at one time stood for Future Farmers of America, but now it’s just FFA) has nearly 600,000 young people who are members. It is encouraging to know so many bright young minds care about the future of agriculture. And not all of them live in the country; urban agriculture is increasing in size and impact.No one pays greater homage to the American Farmer than Paul Harvey in his essay, So God Made A Farmer.
I’m proof you don’t have to live on a farm to support farmers. Join a local farm group in your state like the Kansas Farm Bureau; they are part of the American Farm Bureau which has Farm Bureaus in every state in the nation.
Before you take that next bite of food, say a little prayer and thank a farmer. Because somewhere, some farmer/rancher got out of bed this morning at 5 AM and will work until sundown to grow the food you eat. If you know a farmer, thank him or her for what they do (did you know the majority of farmers in the world are women?). If you don’t know a farmer, find one. They’re easy to spot; they are the people working harder than everyone else.
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Photo: Kansas Peace
I captured this image south of El Dorado, Ks.