By John Schlageck
While I hoped I’d never hear this phrase roll of the lips off a farmer or rancher again, I did the other day. I heard someone say, “I’m just a farmer.”
We’ve all heard these words before. We’ve heard them said at the grain elevator, the grocery story, the local café, church and just about everywhere else in rural America.
I heard them for the first time in years at a local co-op in the southwestern part of our state. They were uttered by an articulate, bright young man.
When asked for his name, he cheerfully told me. When asked his occupation, the man dressed in jeans, a flannel shirt and seed cap looked down at his boots, well-worn and nicked and replied softly, “Just a farmer.”
Just a farmer.
With those three words, he revealed his uncertainty about the value of his profession. As if because of his occupation, his comments wouldn’t count.
There is no such occupation as, “Just a farmer.” In my home state of Kansas and other states across our country, farming is a proud and cherished lifestyle. It is also an industry that supports 21 million jobs across our country.
Farmers are responsible for the food we buy in our grocery stores and serve to our families each day.
Farmers sow more than seeds in the ground – they establish the roots that anchor our communities. They also supply many other items from their farms that are used in our nation’s industry.
Travel through rural America, and you’ll meet and talk to farmers and ranchers who not only care about their land but the towns where they live. They not only work to grow crops and livestock, but to make their communities a better place to live.
Without question, rural communities thrive and prosper when farmers,ranchers and community businesses work together for the common good. Probably the single greatest roadblock for success and growth in any community is a lack of organized leadership with vision and the determination to implement forward thinking. Fortunately, farmers and ranchers have always adhered to a “can do” attitude.
We continue to build on a long and proud heritage of self-help and self-responsibility by investing in our farms, ranches, businesses, communities and the people we employ. We believe our communities and our way of life can continue to be a part of a livable frontier – a community and state of mind where there is always room to grow and prosper.
And when weather calamities devastate a region of our state, people pull together and help one another survive while looking to better times ahead.
Yes, as I have always said, “No one is ‘just’ a farmer, teacher, mailman, lawyer or grocer. Everyone is important, especially the American farmer and rancher when it comes to putting the most nutritious, abundant food on our kitchen tables.”
Stand up, revel in your vocation. Be proud. Providing food, fuel and fiber for the people of this world is without a doubt, the most noble profession one can be a part of.
So, the next time you’re asked, “What is your profession?” you might consider responding like this:
“Yes, I’m a farmer stockman and there’s nothing I’d rather be. There’s not a better place I’d rather live, work and raise my family. My vocation involves helping feed the world and I have dedicated my life to doing so.”
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. This is a reprint of an earlier version of his Kansas Farm Bureau Insights column.