Recently at my youngest uncle’s – 80th birthday party – it truly hit me (again) exactly why I feel so blessed agriculture is my career and such a huge part of my life. My parents both grew up on farms. My dad’s family operated a dairy and logged (think timber) for a living. My surviving uncles, now 84, 82 and 80, all still log, and my youngest uncle also helps his sons with their sawmill business and still has beef cattle.
That probably seems amazing to most people, but to me, that’s just how the Nichols are – and how most of the farmers I’ve been fortunate to meet are. Hardworking, passionate, dedicated, salt-of-the earth people who love what they do, and can’t imagine not doing it – regardless of their age.
My personal interest and college degree were solidly established in the political arena, but that’s how I was (re)introduced to agriculture and the people who grow and raise our food – now more than 25 years ago. It was truly because of the people in agriculture that resulted in why I chose to stay in agriculture for my career. And I’ve loved it every day since.
I’ve been blessed to travel the United States and many other countries around the world with the Alliance (I’m in Mexico as I type) and almost everyone I’ve met has been genuine and works hard to do the right thing. In addition to hardworking, they are incredibly intelligent – blessed with both “book sense” and common sense. They are always seeking to improve, searching for ways to improve by listening to what consumers want, watching the markets and supporting research and adopting new methods and processes based on science.
Farmers and ranchers have to understand and care for their animals, the environment and employees, know how to predict the markets and weather; engage in sales and marketing, understand and be adaptive to legislative and regulatory policies (local, state and national); be food safety experts given their animals or crops ultimately become food. And now we expect them to actively engage communications and social media in order to demonstrate their commitment to transparency.
We expect a lot, and often don’t understand how all of our demands impact not only their business and way of life, but how the requisite changes truly impact their animals or land or even the safety and cost of our food. I urge people to learn more before supporting emotionally charged causes that have a negative impact on our nation’s food producers – and ultimately everything between them and your dinner plate.
We are so fortunate to have such dedicated farmers and ranchers – less than two percent of our 300+ million population – who allow the rest of us to have choice jobs, take time off for vacations, and feed our families for less than 9% of our discretionary income – less than any other country in the world. So this holiday season, take time to visit family and get to know the amazing men and women who dedicate their lives to feeding my family and yours. That is why I thank ag!