Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Think Before You Speak (especially if you are a farmer!)

Yesterday I was illuminated by a county president from a Farm Bureau in New England that farmers there are simply smarter than farmers in the Midwest. Farmers in New England have Master's degrees and run CSAs. They do NOT watch Nascar. They are simply more intelligent and more discerning than we Midwestern rubes.

I wish I was joking about this ridiculous elitist statement.

One of the greatest blessings of the farm community is its unity. I have been so fortunate to meet amazing individuals through my farm work and the many agricultural organizations that I belong. These friends and colleagues have supported me & my farming enterprise. Because I know the value of these bonds, I am greatly discouraged whenever I hear elitist commentary from members of our own farm community. Much of it arises because farmers think their own method of production is simply so much better than all others. I have no patience for this attitude -- we are blessed with many different market options for our products and we should rejoice in those opportunities!

I considered the impact of our attitudes during a conference I attended for Nationwide Insurance. Nationwide grew from its beginning as Ohio Farm Bureau Insurance. In the 1950s, it was renamed Nationwide to illustrate its growth. The company maintains very strong bonds with farmers, and is the number one writer of agricultural policies in the nation. I maintain my auto insurance through Nationwide, and am delighted to receive a discount on it as a member of Ohio Farm Bureau (yet another reason you should join Farm Bureau!)

This policyholder conference was an opportunity to connect with and gain feedback from representatives of state farm bureaus that partner with Nationwide. I learned a great deal about Nationwide and walked away with a positive feeling about the relationship between the company & Ohio Farm Bureau. I also came away feeling very proud of the fact that I am a member of Ohio Farm Bureau, and especially that I am a graduate of the AgriPower program. Our state farm bureau strives to promote positive relationships with consumers, works to unify the farm community, and reminds us to always maintain our professionalism as farmers. I am very proud to be afilliated with this organization.

As a county president for Ohio Farm Bureau, I have often heard the admonition that we are not just the county president for a few hours a month -- we are the county president 24 hours per day. 98% of the American population does not farm. Thus, we must always be good representatives for agriculture . . . whatever role we have in the farm community. This means considering the things we say. A condescending attitude toward other farmers helps no one. Ethnic slurs are offensive. Using perjorative terminology is unacceptable. Mocking others in farming -- particularly our workers -- is tasteless. Finally, if you come to visit Columbus, and are a guest in our fine city, please keep in mind that this is a VERY bad time to make fun of the Buckeyes!

Last night after our evening session, I returned to my hotel room and enjoyed a great documentary on PBS about President Lincoln. Despite all the pressures of the war, the presidency, and his critics, Lincoln carried on without fail in his mission to protect our great union & free our fellow man. With the advantage of time, we can appreciate this phenomenal man, yet he was widely ridiculed during his administration. Remarkably, Lincoln's keen mind and firm resolve were honed without much formal education. He did not have a Master's degree, nor did he run a CSA. (Rather, CSA meant something completely different!) It is important to remember that it is not the education that makes the man; it is the integrity of character that makes the man. Education without humility is wasted. Not every farmer has a Master's or a Bachelor's degree, or even a high school diploma. But then, neither did Abraham Lincoln -- that rough Midwestern -- who saved our country!

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