This week, we gather together as friends and family to give thanks for our blessings as Americans, and to kick off the Christmas holiday season. For many farm families, this year’s Thanksgiving is a much-needed opportunity to restore our sense of purpose and gratitude for the farming and ranching life.
Gratitude may seem ironic to some in agriculture this year. We’re dealing with a perfect storm of challenges: a trade war, bad weather and low prices for several commodities. As farm debt rises, so does farm stress. It can all seem like too much to handle, and it certainly will be a cloud over the holiday for too many in farm country. I’ve been there: feeling that no matter how hard you work, it’s not enough, and knowing that this could be a hard candy Christmas. But life on the farm is still pretty sweet! It is a blessing to be able to farm and ranch and raise our families on the land.
Whatever comes our way — fat or lean — it’s important to be grateful. Even if our sock has a hole in it, it still helps us stay warm. When we look back on our lives, we see that some of our best times, our best memories, are from the lean times. It’s then that we focus on what really matters. Some of my family’s best stories are from the years when we didn’t have as much. But we always had a good meal and a good time together. We could even laugh at some of our hardships and the funny ways we coped with them. I bet your family has those memories and stories, too.
As the clutter of commercialism is cleared away, we are brought closer to our families, and I’m brought closer to my Lord. It gives us a chance to be grateful for our health, to give thanks for the meal in front of us, and to appreciate our loved ones, even if they might drive us crazy sometimes!
As we gather around the table, let’s draw out our friends and family members and pay attention to how they’re really doing. Look for signs of stress, such as a personality change or a major change in health or appearance. Be a good listener and try to help those who are struggling to find hope. Hope is the bailing wire of our lives in agriculture, holding things together for another year.
This is also a time when we begin to think even more about our plans for the year ahead. Even in the worst of times, that’s a source of hope for most farmers and ranchers. Farmers are always looking at what they can do differently next year. Whether the current farm economy has us scaling back or scaling up, we can look for ways to turn today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities—to prepare our farms and ranches for what’s ahead. There’s so much we don’t control in agriculture, but there’s also a lot that we do.
The meal on the Thanksgiving table is what gives me hope, because it wouldn’t be possible without our farmers and ranchers. The world needs us!
As we carve the turkey and cut a slice of pie, let’s think of each serving as a slice of hope — and a blessing. We still live in the land of plenty. We still have so much to be grateful for.
I pray that you are blessed and re-energized by your celebrations this week. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.