Just as the sun rises each morning, Kansas farmers and ranchers begin each day dedicated to providing food and providing the best for their families. Simultaneously, and with each new generation, non-farm folks become further and further removed from the farm.
It’s easy to understand why so many people in our state, and this country, understand less and less about agriculture and where their food comes from. Most have forgotten, or might have never known, that individual farmers and ranchers supply the necessary food for their diets.
Many people believe there will never be a food shortage in our country just as long as the doors remain open on their neighborhood supermarket and quick shops. All the while, farmers and ranchers come under closer scrutiny and sometimes unfounded attacks.
Some of the most intense voices in this anti-agriculture movement are driven by questionable — and even extreme — personal and emotional beliefs. This is particularly true when it comes to the future role of food animals. The intent of some of these social media messages, campaigns and advertisements is ill-considered, unnecessarily divisive and, in some cases, unscientific.
Truth be known, today’s farmer or rancher is a planning specialist who understands marketing and using the incentives of free enterprise. To remain in business, our farmers reach deeper into their pockets to pay for crop and livestock inputs that continue to skyrocket, and machinery and other technology that allows them to remain competitive in today’s global economy.
In a recent visit with a young farmer from Haskell County, Hayes Kelman, I asked what inspires him about farming?
Hayes zeroed in on the experience and the satisfaction of building on his family heritage. He knows at the end of the day, everything that happens, and every good or bad change is his responsibility.
This young farmer cherishes the opportunity to make his own way — with support and input from his family. While numbers on a ledger sheet are important to him, farming is much more than this.
“I hope I never forget the thrill of the first truckload of wheat to go into the elevator,” Kelman says.
The sweet success of producing food for hungry people remains something the Haskell County farmer will never take for granted. Farmers farm because their vocation remains part of the divine magic of life that renews itself every year.
No matter how many times he’s done it, the young farmer still marvels that a seed planted in the earth can grow and produce food.
“Some people spend their whole lives in church and never see as much proof of the grace of God as I see every day,” Hayes says. “I can’t imagine walking through a field that I’ve prayed and sweated over, only to reduce this whole miracle to dollars and cents.”
Safeguarding agriculture as a necessary, noble profession remains in the best interests of farmers, ranchers, agribusiness and all of us. This is critical because the contribution agriculture makes to the health and prosperity of this country cannot be measured.
It’s key for consumers, along with farmers and ranchers to understand and respect one another. This country and the world cannot hope to feed its people sustainably without the support of the many thousands of family farms and ranches across the country.
Without this health in agriculture, there is no way to ensure prosperity in our economy and producers like Hayes Kelman will not be able to produce the food we take so much for granted in our lives each day.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.