Plain Living: 'I like ag'
I noticed the semi-retired farmer studying an exhibit at an area farm show. He was trying to figure out the cutting-edge technology on display -- even though his son, who runs the farm now, is the one who might use it.The farmer turned and saw me...
I noticed the semi-retired farmer studying an exhibit at an area farm show. He was trying to figure out the cutting-edge technology on display - even though his son, who runs the farm now, is the one who might use it.
The farmer turned and saw me. We shook hands; we’ve known each other for more years than I care to count.
“Good to see you staying current on this new stuff,” I said, motioning to the exhibit. “It speaks well for you.”
A modest guy, he downplayed the compliment.
“Well, I’ve got one foot in the grave already. I shouldn’t spend what little time I have left on this,” he said with a smile.
“Hey, you know that’s not what I meant,” I said. “You’re at the point where you could coast a little. But you’re not. You still want to be the best farmer you can be.”
He hesitated, trying a suitably low-key response. “Oh,” he said at last, “I like agriculture.”
That’s not true for everyone in ag, of course. For some, it’s just a living. Ag provides their only job opportunity, or they see it as a stepping stone to something else. And that’s fine; they’re working in an honorable, indispensable industry.
But most of us who work in ag, I think, view it as more than a paycheck.
Sure, we do it to support ourselves and our families. But we also do it because we like ag. Ag matters to us. It’s part of our life, part of our self-identity.
That affection is often tested, of course. Feeding livestock on bitterly cold days, seeing drought wither crops and pastures, watching commodity prices plunge - ag isn’t so enjoyable when the weather and markets are nasty.
And while they like ag, agriculturalists don’t always like each other. They don’t sit around campfires singing “Kumbaya.” Important, fundamental differences - on everything from chemical use to government ag policy - lead to, well, let’s call them spirited discussions. Nor do aggies have warm and fuzzy feelings for a neighbor who outbids them to buy or rent land.
Changing with the times
Despite differences and disagreements, though, ag often provides a we’re-in-this-together camaraderie. It makes us part of something bigger than ourselves.
Because ag is so important to most of us, we’re even more willing to adopt and change with the times. It’s certainly true for me. Ag journalism and Agweek continue to evolve: social media, new and more technology - even a TV show that (gulp) sometimes involves me appearing on camera.
Like other aggies working to meet their individual challenges, I’ll continue striving to meet mine.
After all, I like ag.