My articles for the [IFA] Cooperator magazine usually cover some technical aspect of agriculture – how to feed cows, nutritional concepts, marketing of our products, or a review of some recent research. However, this article will be a little different; it will talk about some of the benefits of agriculture to society beyond the products we produce.
Agricultural life is a very interesting lifestyle. We tend to get up earlier, work later, work harder physically and work together more as families than most careers allow or require. Some would say it is a difficult way to live and there are days we would not disagree with that sentiment. Yet, we love what we do and that is one of the differences between what we do and what many do in their jobs. There is a level of satisfaction that comes from producing something of value. To plant a seed, water, weed, fertilize and eventually see, through hard work and patience, that seed produce something of value and enjoyment is rewarding to the soul.
Man seems to have a need and a drive to build and create. Everywhere in society you see evidence of this, whether it is a skyscraper, a bridge over a river, a field of corn, a herd of animals, a dairy, an orchard, or a business of any kind – we want to use our efforts and our genius to try and create something of significance. Agriculture is perhaps the oldest and most fundamental means of creation since people of any age need food to eat, clothes to wear, and some place to live. Agriculture provides for these fundamental needs and there is a sense of accomplishment when they are provided in abundance.
Even those who live in cities have a drive and a desire for these experiences. Many living in cities have gardens and orchards because they feel a need and a desire to see something grow and enjoy the rewards of a ripe peach, or tomato, or an ear of sweet corn picked fresh from the garden. To get dirt under the fingernails seems to have some cathartic effect on the soul. I know it does on mine.
Farm life also provides an abundance of memories. When our family gathers for a reunion or other family occasion we invariably talk about some of the experiences we had growing up on a dairy. It doesn’t take long before we are all laughing and adding our own perspective to the occasion being recalled. Our sisters have as many memories as we brothers do. One of the most admirable aspects of farm life is that often the girls are as involved as the boys. Farming is a family activity where all can work together – mom, dad, brother and sister. What other career allows that kind of family involvement?
Agriculture also often produces a God-fearing people. We live in an industry that is largely dependent upon the weather and other aspects completely out of our control. The weather affects animals as well as crops and can be your best friend or your worst enemy when trying to be profitable in your business. Sometimes prayer is your only solution to a problem, and that is not a bad thing. This business we are in and love can force us to our knees because we realize so many things are out of our control. It forces us to have a degree of humility.
Most would agree that the most important thing we grow is the next generation of people. We live in a very strange time with serious economic, social and moral problems. Society seems to feel that the world owes them a living and all the comforts of life. Agriculture however, teaches the rising generation to work if they want to eat, to work if they face a challenge and teaches them that they can do hard things if they use their heads and keep at the task. It teaches them to rely upon a higher power and not their neighbor unless their neighbor offers to help.
While I have great concerns for our nation and the state of the world, I don’t worry about those involved in agriculture. I am confident that those living on farms will raise children who will work and are well grounded (pun intended). They will think correctly, will act appropriately, and will vote properly because they understand what really matters. There are many good and honest people outside of agriculture, but I am confident those in agriculture will stay true to correct principles of life and will help overcome the challenges of the day because they do it every day.
IFA has a motto, “Helping to Grow the Things You Love.” We are fortunate to help you grow the most important crop of all – the next generation. We should all give thanks every day that we are able to participate in the blessings and rewards of agriculture.
Written by David O. Jensen, PhD, and originally published in the IFA Cooperator magazine (vol. 82, no. 3) Fall 2016. David is an IFA Nutritionist at North Region Feed.
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