"You know farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower's quote is from September 1956, when the president gave an address at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. Now 63 years later, I keep it handy on a metal wall sign as a reminder to always stay close to the industry rooted in me and what I love, agriculture.
How can we bridge the gap in 2019 from real farmers to those far from a farm field? I think it's time to kick off the #buddyseatchallenge, with no presidential speech or government program needed.
Recently, Melinda Groth, a Ridgeway, Minn., farmer posted on Facebook with a photo of a combine, "We love to have visitors go for a ride while we are harvesting. Our buddy seat is perfect for the young and young at heart to come out and ride a round or two. We'll keep you updated when we get started and then feel free to contact us when you want a ride! More farm updates are on Instagram, check out @grothfamilyfarms.If you've got your own buddy seat, consider yourself challenged to open your cab door to visitors and share your harvest views! #buddyseatchallenge #harvest19"
The #buddyseatchallenge is a movement and effort we can use these days. We're a society growing farther away from the farm and more disconnected from farmers and ranchers who grow our food.
If you're not familiar, a buddy seat is an extra seat in the cab of a tractor or combine. It's a perfect place for a passenger or driver in training. Before buddy seats, some of us shared tractor rides on the cab floor or rigged up our own seats. But modern tractors and combines have an extra seat waiting. As Groth pointed out, any age can head out for a "round or two," meaning a pass or two around the field and your ride can be done.
The #buddyseatchallenge can start with you today. The farmer wants to know you, the consumer of their products. Contact a farmer through your family, community or social media connections.
Now farmers often don't have a lot to say. They are humble in their profession, but any farmer I know has a passion for different aspects of farming and ranching. If you're climbing into the buddy seat, have a few questions to ask and then listen.
I recommend bringing a snack to share and you'll make the farmer's long day brighter.
And farmers, I think harvest is already looking long for you with the wet summer and early fall. Do you have a friend, family member, neighbor or clergy you can invite to join you in the #buddyseatchallenge?
If you're hosting a passenger in your buddy seat this fall, ask their perceptions of modern agriculture and listen.
The #buddyseatchallenge can connect those far from farms directly to a farmer. Take a picture. Post in your social media networks and use the hashtag #buddyseatchallenge.
What is the long-term impact if 50,000 farmers invite two people this harvest season to ride with them in their buddy seat? Those 100,000 people go back to their families, friends, communities, employers, and schools and tell the stories of agriculture they learned upfront and personal directly from a farmer. And then it continues and grows.
Farmers and ranchers can build connections and grow communication around agriculture with the #buddyseatchallenge.