Giving thanks for agriculture
Ann Bailey explains why she's thankful for agriculture in professional and personal life.
Agriculture has permeated my personal life for nearly 64 years and my professional life for about half of those.
I’m thankful I can make that claim.
I have been reflecting on my gratitude for my lifelong involvement in agriculture the past few weeks because one of Agweek’s traditions is to write “Thankful for Ag” stories during November, the month Americans celebrate Thanksgiving.
This year, besides writing a feature story about potato farmers who donated produce to the emergency shelter in Grand Forks, North Dakota, through a project called Northland Potato Blessing , I want to share my perspective on why I’m thankful for agriculture.
I’ll start with my appreciation for the sacrifices that farmers and ranchers who raise crops and livestock make to feed people across the globe.
I’ve witnessed those firsthand on the farm where I grew up and ones where I did interviews, the mental and physical challenges that go into food production. Slogging through mud and muck, working outside in brutal weather, being regulated by policies made by people who never have stepped on a farm or ranch, lack of adequate health care and ever increasing costs for the equipment that, despite the high-ticket price, breaks down, to name just a few.
Yet, despite those and many other obstacles facing them, most of the farmers and ranchers I’ve met remain optimistic about the future. I admire that “next year will be better,” mentality, and I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to talk to people who put it into action each year by planting new crops or caring for newborn livestock.
It’s inspiring and gives me hope to hear from people who look forward to the future in these days of hand wringing negativity.
The nurturing and care which many good farmers and ranchers give to their land and animals is another thing for which I’m grateful. The subject of money rarely comes up when I interview them about raising crops and livestock, but, instead, they talk about things such as how they get pleasure in seeing the changes in their fields throughout the growing season or the joy of watching a new calf or lamb frolic around the pasture.
Farming and ranching, of course, are far from idyllic careers, and probably more often than not, the gritty moments outnumber the pastoral ones. During tough times, men and women involved in food production have to make choices that will have a lasting impact on their and their families' lives.
Sometimes that choice is to diversify their operations by adding another business. Other choices include narrowing the focus of the farms or ranches. Perhaps the toughest choice is to quit farming altogether and pursue another career.
Pivoting to any of those options, and others people choose, take courage and I commend those who recognize that what they were doing wasn’t working and that it was the better part of valor to recognize that.
Besides the producers, the list of why I am thankful for agriculture also includes the people who work in the agricultural industry that supports farmers.
From machinery dealers, to grain elevators, to feed stores to veterinarians, to processors, there are thousands of other businesses made up of people who contribute to the production of food. Without them, grains and crops production would not be possible.
Finally, on both a personal and professional level, I’m indebted to agriculture because it affords me the opportunity to have my dream job — being an ag journalist. I can’t think of a better job for me than one that includes perks like interviewing members of the agricultural industry, traveling the back roads to get to where I’m going, and writing stories about them and the issues that matter to them.
Not only during the month of Thanksgiving, but every day, a heartfelt shout out from me to the agriculture industry — thank you!
Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, North Dakota, that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.