If you had asked me 20 years ago what the letters Ag stood for, I would not have been able to tell you. Those initials represented a community of people that I seldom ran across in the swimming pools of South Florida.
This week our country celebrated National Ag Day and many social media posts thanking farmers permeated the cyber sphere. I have no memory as a child of being any more aware of National Ag Day than the term Ag. Today, I wonder how many people outside of farmers celebrated this special day?
As I think about our farm and what Matt and I have worked for over the past 16 years, I feel a myriad of emotions. Most of all, I marvel at the maturity and the insight that I have gained. I find myself struggling to remember the 22 year old young woman that moved to Nebraska and set out to learn how to be the Boss Lady at the cattle feed yard.
While I am sure that parts of me (namely the stubbornness and determination) are still relatively prominent, I look at the world very differently today than I did when I moved to Nebraska in 1997. As I remember the girl with unusual dreams and stars in her eyes, I marvel at her confidence.
Youthful optimism is a powerful mental tool—Just as I never doubted that Matt and I were meant to build a life together, I also never doubted that I could learn to be a good cattle caregiver. As I became successful at the feed yard, I began to broaden my spectrum and to work in a volunteer status to improve cattle care practices through the Beef Quality Assurance program.
Quite honestly, it never occurred to me that I would fail. That is the beauty of youthful passion and faith. Through the years, it seems as though maturity has replaced that youthful confidence. Today, as I look at agriculture from the eyes of a 38 year old mother of three, there are days that I can no longer find the stars that used to inhabit my eyes. A myriad of challenges threaten to replace those stars with doubts.
- Mother Nature
- Volatile commodity markets
- Pressures from both increased government regulations and activist groups
- Lack of unity within the agricultural community
- Lack of trust between farmers and urbanites
In particular, the last three weigh heavily on my “not so youthful” optimism. Quite frankly, I worry about this at night when I should be sleeping. I find myself imploring both farmers and non-farmers to open up the needed conversation regarding food animal production practices.
I feel the tremendous need for this conversation at the same time that my heart is concerned that it may be too late, or that we will not be able to see through the emotion clearly enough to respect each other and have a meaningful conversation.
As I celebrate National Ag Day in 2013, I look to my faith and to my children to give me the needed strength to keep moving forward. I look into my girls’ eyes and draw on that optimism that so closely resembles what I used to see when I looked in the mirror. I recharge my soul with the knowledge that this challenge is too important for us to not be successful. I pray that we can come together as a country to find a sustainable and appropriate blend of food production systems in order to ensure the security of our future.
Today, in honor of National Ag Day, don’t just thank the farmer—ask questions and help start the conversation.