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The Ag Agenda

October 2007

For Most, Harvest Symbolizes Nostalgia, Simpler Times

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

“Autumn, with her yellow harvest moon and the hills growing brown and golden under a sinking sun; all farmers can rest easy, give thanks that their toils have come to fruition.” While I can’t take credit for this verse, it does capture what I, and probably most farmers, feel this time of year: a sigh of relief; a twinge of excitement; a feeling of blessedness when a good crop is brought in.

A Cornucopia of Tradition

As a child, I remember the feeling that came about as soon as the air turned crisp, the leaves crunched under my feet and the days became shorter. I knew it wouldn’t be long until my parents would begin harvesting the fall crops, just like their parents did before them. Harvest time, along with visits to the local pumpkin patch, hayrides and hot cider is steeped in a tradition that has encompassed farm families and rural communities across the country for generations.

With the increasing popularity of agri-tourism, city dwellers, too, can partake in these simple joys with their children. Usually within an hour’s drive from most major cities, a number of farm families convert their operations into a funfest of corn mazes and pumpkin decorating. This time of year brings together people from all walks of life who are looking to reconnect with the land.

While farmers associate the season with harvest (in fact, until the 16th century ‘harvest’ was used to refer to the season now known as Autumn), most folks outside of agriculture simply think of it as a very special, nostalgic time of year.

Harvesting a Legacy

For producers, harvest secures our reward for an entire year’s worth of hard work, commitment and patience. It represents an end-goal of producing food, fiber and fuel that nourishes our families, neighbors and communities across the globe. As the great poet Robert Frost once said, show me a farmer, and I’ll show you a man who feels the sweat of God.

Farmers breathe easier once harvest is complete, but there are many of my comrades this year who didn’t have such a bountiful crop because of drought and other weather-related conditions. Former president of the Maryland Farm Bureau Buddy Hance comes to mind. Buddy says he normally harvests about 130 bushels of corn per acre, but this season his yield averaged only 30. Similar stories can be seen in waterlogged regions of the Midwest, parched regions of the Southeast and localized spots all across our nation. Unfortunately, that’s the business of farming. Some years you’re up, and others you’re down. Because of this, someone once said that producers deserve our deep respect, for the land and its harvest is the legacy of generations of farmers who put food on our tables, preserved our landscape, and inspired us with a powerful work ethic.

My wish for all producers this year is a plentiful harvest, after which you can sit back and enjoy the toils of your labor with family and friends. As for me, I’m looking forward to taking my grandkids to the local pumpkin patch and helping them carry on a tradition that spreads farther and wider than they will ever know.