Thirty plus years ago, I used to sit at the Sunday dinner table of a family to whom I was not genetically related. It was here in the southeast corner of the Idaho agricultural corridor but their occupation and living was not of that vocation.
Our conversations varied from family and friends to current events. They were not sports oriented like I was, therefore, the current trend of BYU football, etc. was rarely debated. These were delicious meals of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots and homemade rolls with a plate of softened butter placed conveniently on the table for smearing. Followed by a full belly Sunday afternoon nap on the couch…good times!
This good memory however, is tainted a bit by one fact. On more than one occasion, the conversation took a note that disturbed if not bruised my feelings. From their “educated” viewpoint, criticism would be offered regarding the speakers at the church earlier in the day. Many members of their congregation were farmers on large wheat, cattle or spud acreage common in that region of Idaho.
Pointing out the grammatical errors spoken during the sermon or mention of the speaker’s unpolished “farmer” appearance was not uncommon. I sat and ate in silence. My muteness is now something I regret. I should have respectfully orated my differing opinion but was too timid at that age. I did not feel comfortable with their statements nor confident enough to offer any form of rebuttal. My thoughts however, sitting at a table full of skillfully prepared food, were strong and sharp to my emotions: “We are enjoying all this food that came straight from a field or ranch nearby, grown and raised by the very farmers you are degrading, how hypocritical!?” An irony is that they knew my background but yet opined ad nauseam in oblivion to my presence.
“All these farm subsidies are bankrupting the government and can you believe he still had dirt under his nails!” are just a sample of what I can remember being said by the “highly educated” matriarch and/or patriarch of this conclave. The holders of the opinions I heard at that dinner table were very “uneducated” when it came to farming. They knew nothing of the work, time and planning it takes to be a successful farmer. How dare they criticize a noble occupation that included my dad? I should have pointed out to them some of the experiences I had growing up on a farm and the value they held.
My wife (at the time) and I eventually moved from the area and the Sunday dinners became a thing of the past. I did share my feelings with her at a later date but all I heard back was, “Well, I sure never thought I’d marry a farm boy!”. The topic was dropped and that marriage ended a few years later; all water under the bridge and down the irrigation ditch now.
The point of me telling you this somewhat negative story (I apologize) is to share my belief in the value of agriculture to us all. Those meals I spoke of, any meal from any restaurant or home kitchen, all started on a farm with the labor of someone with dirt under their nails. Someone who maybe only got a C in English class instead of an A. Someone who physically worked and worried longer hours of the day and night than most. Someone like my dad, my brothers, like some of you that take the time to relax, rest and read my words when the chores of the day are finished.
A man who honors the farmer more eloquently than I ever can is Paul Harvey. Take a listen to his radio show episode called, “God Made a Farmer”. It is only two minutes long but masterful.
In our life, we may only need a doctor, a physical therapist like me, a lawyer or a preacher every once in a while. But everyday, three times a day, we need a FARMER.
Thanks Dad, thanks to all the farmers in Idaho, no matter how many acres you work, crops or animals you raise, we need you…JOB WELL DONE!!
Thomas was raised in Preston. He is currently serving his fourth term on the Preston City Council.
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