Think of farmers and ranchers and this old, often forgotten tribute comes to mind. It fits farmers like seed in the soil or ranchers like a new-born calf takes to its mother’s udder.
I’ve often heard friends, neighbors and family—my dad, for one—quote bits and pieces of it. I’ve heard others refer to it at meetings, in church, at a sale barn, funerals and many other places where rural people live, work and congregate. It exemplifies the farm and ranch vocation. It goes something like this.
A man’s greatest possession is his dignity and no calling bestows this more abundantly than farming. Hard work and honest sweat are the building blocks of a person’s character.
Farming and ranching, despite its hardships and disappointments, is the most honest and honorable way a man/woman can spend days on this earth. The vocation of agriculture nurtures the close family ties that make life rich in ways money can’t buy.
Children who are raised on a farm or ranch earn values that last a lifetime that can be learned no other way. Farming and ranching provides education for life and no other occupation teaches so much about birth, growth and maturity in such a variety of ways.
Without question, many of the best things in life are free—the splendor of a sunrise, the rapture of wide open spaces, the exhilarating sight of the landscape greening each spring—true happiness comes from watching crops ripen in the field, watching children grow tall in the sun, seeing your whole family feel the pride that springs from their shared experience living, working and harvesting from the land.
Farmers and ranchers believe that through their shared vocation they are giving more to the world than they are taking from it—an honor and privilege that does not come to all men or women. Agricultural producers believe their lives will be measured ultimately by what they have done for their fellow men/women and by this standard, fear no judgment.
They believe when they grow old and sum up their days, they will stand tall and feel pride in the life they’ve lived. Farmers and ranchers believe in their vocation because it makes all this possible.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas.