We’re Just Farmers
By: Ron Neher, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Retired
Some years ago I attended a state level meeting in Colorado affiliated with agriculture. It was a three day meeting whereby attendees were staying at a hotel. An elderly couple, who apparently failed to register on time, needed a room at the hotel during the meeting. I later heard the gentleman tell the story when the registration desk inquired what they wanted regarding room’s various amenities as well as the hotel’s services. His response was, “It doesn’t matter, - we’re just farmers.” Farmers, or better put families from rural America involved in agriculture, need not look at themselves in such light. I know the husband and wife were being kind with their response to the hotel registration personnel, but their response, regardless of its innocence, bothered me. I immediately thought that just because they are involved in agriculture, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same quality that anyone else should demand or receive.
In today’s world, everything is full of important stuff, least important things, and who cares. Some people love sports and others can do without that form of entertainment. Some like hunting and others think it’s cruel. There are those who can’t wait for the next movie to come out and others who wouldn’t go to a theater even if you gave them a ticket. We all have our likes and dislikes, - but one thing we all have in common is we all eat, - some more than others.
When I began working for the Soil Conservation Service, there was an employee in the Alamosa Area Office who had a bumper sticker on his brief case that said, IF YOU EAT, YOU’RE INVOLVED IN AGRICULTURE. How true! If there is one thing in this world we all have in common with each other, its food, - specifically eating! Regardless of what each of us view as important or what values we give to the various things that make up our daily walk, food should rank up near the top, if not at the top!
Today, most people in the United States know little about food production. As long as it is on the grocery shelves, that’s fine with them. During the previous presidential campaign very little was mentioned, on both the republican and democratic side, regarding the word “agriculture.” More “important” topics came to the fore front with agricultural topics, specifically crop and livestock production, receiving little if any attention. Agriculture just wasn’t important.
Our country has changed over the years with its values and priorities in much contrast over the past century. Technology has changed our values and ways of life, but some things are still the same. Countless inventions over the past two hundred years have greatly added to our new ideals, values, and basically what is and is not important to each of us.
A century earlier in American history the occupation of a farmer or rancher was viewed with greater importance than it is today. Today, reports of less than 1% of the United State’s population claim farming as an occupation. The subject of agriculture is not the most important subject on the evening news; however, more and more people eat each year due to our population growth. Therefore, it can be argued that an even greater importance, percentage wise, should be placed on agriculture as a very important and vital business.
Farming and ranching, from their early roles in American history, has moved from an emphasis in the field to now a greater emphasis in research, laboratories, and universities. Great progress has been made over the years through research improving crop yields and livestock production. However, with all occupations in agriculture said to be “important,” – and when all is said and done, - it’s the long hours in the field that eventually gets the food to the table.
So, - if you are one of these people who have taken on this personal responsibility of production agriculture, - you are not “just a farmer.” You are a vital member of the United States of America. My personal thanks.