Farmers deserve the air time [UPDATED]Published 6:11am Tuesday, February 12, 2013 Updated 8:19am Tuesday, February 12, 2013
While I didn’t grow up on the farm – both my parents were basically city kids – I have heard enough about farming from my in-laws and while living in a farming community like Fergus Falls over the last 18 years to feel some connection to it.
So when I saw the Super Bowl commercial from Dodge about farmers, illustrating a famous piece of prose read by Paul Harvey, it was hard not to tear up. Here was the script:
“God said, ‘I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.’ So God made a farmer.
“God said, ‘I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say,’Maybe next year,’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from an ash tree, shoe a horse with hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. Who, during planting time and harvest season will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, put in another 72 hours.’ So God made a farmer.
“God said, ‘I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the leg of a meadowlark.
‘It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, and brake, and disk, and plow, and plant, and tie the fleece and strain the milk. Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says that he wants to spend his life doing what Dad does. So God made a farmer.”
From what I have heard, my wife’s dad, grandpa, uncles and others did everything Paul Harvey talked about and more. Whenever we have to fix something using chicken wire or duct tape, it usually is said with the statement, “We pulled an Addison,” referring to my wife’s late grandfather.
I see my father-in-law working more overtime at his farm job in a month than I have worked in my lifetime, and yet he doesn’t complain. I assume the hours he put in are about what he used to put in all the time as a farmer, and he doesn’t know any different.
As for the last line, it makes one weepy to think that a child would be interested in becoming a farmer. Maybe it’s because, in recent years, many children of farmers haven’t wanted to follow in their footsteps. Until recently, the economics of farming had a lot to do with the feeling among farm kids that, for my life, maybe it’s time to do something different. “So God Made a Farmer” was actually written in the 1940s, and Paul Harvey reworked it and gave the speech at a 1975 Future Farmers of America convention.
A lot of happened, of course, since then. The farm land crisis of the 1980s, the population migration from rural areas to metro areas, all chipped away at a way of life many of us who live out here are familiar with.
Fortunately, the economics of farming is swinging the other way. The rise in commodity prices, and maybe the growth of organic and premium vegetable farming, might spawn a new generation of farmers.
Let’s hope so. Paul Harvey’s words should continue to represent real people, and not just mythological beings.
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I’m sure a few months ago, I wrote about my optimism for Minnesota’s winter sports teams. So much for that.
The Timberwolves seem to get injured as often I check my smart phone. The Gopher men’s basketball team has made its annual trip to the tank two games into the Big 10 season. And the Wild are just as bad as last year despite spending $200 million on two players and calling up the supposedly best young prospects in the NHL.
Thus when I turn on the TV in the evening, is it any wonder that shows like “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “Love it or List it” hog the airwaves?
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org