'The rain falls on the good and the bad' and other wisdom remembered at the Agweek Farm Show
Mychal Wilmes discusses some of the conversations he had at the Agweek Farm Show and of other things those conversations put him in mind of.
“From your lips to God’s ears."
The Yiddish wish was uttered by an old friend who stopped by the Agweek booth during its farm show earlier this month in Rochester, Minnesota.
There are many reasons to hope that heaven is listening.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken commodity markets, set fuel and fertilizer prices soaring, and raised worries over fertilizer cost and shipping issues; and the flock-destroying bird flu continues to spread.
A veteran of the Korean Conflict — who carries himself much younger than his 90-plus years — shakes his head when asked if he is optimistic about the immediate future. The nation is as politically divided as it has ever been, and Vladimir Putin has access to nuclear weapons.
“Where is the next Dwight Eisenhower?" he asked.
Eisenhower led Allied armies in World War II and later became president. The interstate highway system was his brainchild, and he stood strong when the Communist iron curtain fell on eastern Europe and the Cold War was hot.
Eisenhower’s secretary of agriculture was Ezra Taft Benson, who was convinced that subsidies and price supports for farmers smacked of socialism. He spoke out against the very programs the U.S. Department of Agriculture administered and was credited with creating the “get big or get out of farming philosophy."
It did not win him many friends with small farm operators. A crowd threw eggs at him during a South Dakota farm appearance, conduct that even one of his more controversial successors (Earl Butz in the Nixon administration) didn’t suffer.
Another friend — a retired landowner who continues to own land — stopped by the booth. A good portion of the property is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. Created in the 1985 farm bill, CRP is considered one of the most successful conservation programs in history.
“It’s treated me very well," he said. “I get enjoyment watching the pheasants and the deer."
The program was not universally popular when it was announced during the farm crisis. Seed and fertilizer providers thought it would limit sales; others thought it a clumsy tool to lift commodity prices.
The land has carried his family name since the 1850s — even before Minnesota became a state and prior to the time when farm boys marched east to save the union from Confederate rebels.
- In time, life's circle completes for all of us
- Ag policies from the Dust Bowl era may not be perfect but the fragility of topsoil hasn't changed
- Waiting for rhubarb amid the gloom of spring and remembering the kitchens of old
- Lessons of cruel spring storms through history stick with you
- Cutting seed potatoes served as a respite from farmwork
Union generals faced a perplexing problem during the war. So many farm boys were excused from their units to return home to help with spring planting that military campaigns were delayed until they returned.
“We’ve been reading your column for 30 years," a smiling woman said.
“Gosh, that’s a long time," I replied.
It’s a lot longer than I ever expected when I started out pounding out stories on an electric typewriter and nearly drowning in white correction fluid. Long-winded that I may be, I expected to run out of things to say and stories to tell. I didn’t realize how many friends I’d meet, nor the value of their life stories.
The people and their stories remain priceless gifts.
It was hard to give up the milk cows. Ah, but they return sometimes in the middle of the night. The mind plays tricks with cows down with milk fever, breeched calves and malfunctioning bulk tank.
“You are a niche celebrity," someone said.
I laugh at the thought. My parents would, too.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to meet old friends at the farm show. Agriculture — in this age of GPS-guided tractors, robotic milkers, and computer-generated information — has changed so much through the decades.
“Plant with optimism and expect a good harvest."
And rest assured a gentle wind will tickle God’s ears. As it is written the rain falls on both the good and the bad.
Thanks again for reading. We have gotten to know each other well in the time we spend together.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.