As a member of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee, I recently spent six days in San Antonio for the AFBF Annual Convention. I always look forward to this event and the chance to catch up with folks I haven’t seen since the last convention.
Each year before the convention kicks off; the national committee reads to students at a local school and presents an agriculture lesson. This year, we visited a school in New Braunfels where we paired off in groups of two so we could visit 12 different classrooms and more than 200 children. Many of these kids had never met or even seen a farmer before, so it was a pretty neat experience to tell them that we were the people who grew their hamburgers and milk.
Although many farmers and ranchers encourage ag literacy among adults, it is just as important to take our message to children. One way my state’s Young Farmer and Rancher Committee does this is with our Book Barn project. For the last five years, we have donated red painted bookshelves in the shape of a barn filled with “accurate ag” books to schools and libraries. The Book Barn project has been a huge hit and many county Farm Bureaus have begun buying the barns so every school in their district can have one.
Reading to school children is, perhaps, one of the easiest ways to share our stories as farmers and ranchers. It takes only a few minutes and most teachers are eager to let guest readers come into their classrooms. I encourage you to think about reading to a class (or two or three!) in your own community. If you need help selecting an “accurate ag” book, the American Farm Bureau Foundation has a wonderful searchable database and list of recommended books available online at www.agfoundation.org/bookdb.
Members of the national YF&R Committee read to children at a school in San Antonio.
It is truly hard to believe that winter is practically here and Thanksgiving upon us once again. Sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, there is so much to be thankful for. By Thanksgiving, our corn has been chopped and all of the hay has been baled, ensuring that our livestock will be well fed during the coming winter months. By Thanksgiving, the last of our cows and calves have been hauled home from the pasture in the “mountains.” The surprise winter snow that might have rushed us in getting the cattle out is now just a memory. The cellar shelves will be full of the produce that was canned from the garden and the deep freezer equally full of the beef that we had butchered over the summer. The woodshed will be (almost) full of cut wood to keep us warm.
But more than anything, I am so thankful that I was born into this farm life. I am extremely proud of the fact that I am a fourth generation farmer, and I am thankful that a farming heritage is something that I inherited from not just one parent, but from two. I am so grateful that my parents have always encouraged me to be involved with the farm. Growing up, it might have sometimes been by force, but I can’t imagine having been raised anywhere else.
As farmers, it seems like we see more than our fair share of struggles and challenges, but God has given us all so much to be thankful for. Sometimes, we just have to slow down a little to see His many blessings. So, as you sit down to roasted turkey and pumpkin pie, take a moment to think of all the wonderful ways God has blessed you and your farm.
As Psalm 95:2-3 says, “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods.”
Have a truly blessed Thanksgiving!
I love cattle-selling day. Excitement is always in the air when those huge tractor trailers pull up the drive and we run a load of calves on to be shipped out West. Where will they end up? Will they go somewhere fairly close like Illinois or Kentucky, or further west to Oklahoma or maybe Colorado? How many people across the United States (and the world!) will have the opportunity to eat a hamburger or steak that originated from my family’s farm here in the mountains? There are about two minutes to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction of another successful calf crop before we have to go back to working so there’s a crop for next year too. Feeding our world is a big job. Stressful, demanding and exhausting, but also incredibly exciting.
As farmers, we are often confronted with the statistics and numbers of how much more food we will have to produce to feed the growing world in the next 40 years. It’s easy to forget about those people who don’t have enough to eat and go hungry. Feeding America designates September as “Hunger Action Month.” Feeding America is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization and reports that as many as 1 in every 6 Americans is struggling with not having enough food to eat. Hunger affects everyone – children as well as hardworking adults and senior citizens – and is just as likely to occur in a rural setting as in a suburban one. As a matter of fact, Feeding America reports that more than 3 million rural households have a hard time putting food on the table. One of those households could very easily be a neighboring family.
In my state, our Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee organizes an annual “Harvest for All” food drive. The “Harvest for All” campaign is a special partnership between the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers program and Feeding America. The intent is to allow farmers an opportunity to share part of their bounty with those less fortunate. More than 37 million Americans receive food through the Feeding America network each year.
Over the past year and a half, I have been fortunate to have had two opportunities to work on service projects with “Harvest for All.” Last November, I (along with my friends on the AFBF YF&R Committee) spent three hours at a distribution center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin repackaging and labeling frozen breakfast foods. In July of this year, we spent a morning gleaning yellow squash and zucchini on a farm in Michigan. We picked more than16,000 pounds of produce. All to feed hungry folks.
While the food we collect here in West Virginia is never anywhere near these levels, the appreciation and gratitude from Feeding America staffers is the same. During this month and the entire harvest season, I encourage you to think of how you can give back and get involved with a “Harvest for All” project in your own community or state. It doesn’t have to be big – donate some fresh produce to a soup kitchen or some canned goods to a local food pantry. Every little bit helps and “together we can solve hunger!” And don’t forget our Twitter handle “#YFRF2FH” or Young Farmers and Ranchers Farming to Fight Hunger!!