In 1961, President-elect John F. Kennedy addressed the Massachusetts legislature and became remembered for saying, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.”
I’m a fan of JFK’s ability to share elegant, intelligent prose; however, in this instance, I prefer the original source for his inspiration:
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” ~ Luke 12:48
You can interpret the verse with your heart or brain … neither perspective is wrong. My personal interpretation tends to vary depending upon the circumstance currently requiring me to draw from my stuffed vault of quotes!
Lately, I find this verse speaking right to the heart of today’s cattleman (or woman if you prefer).
We farmers and ranchers are entrusted with land and livestock, but we also have responsibility to future generations … to the children who no longer help milk the cows but rather think butter comes from butterflies.
Go ahead, laugh; I know some of you at least chuckled. But, I’ve lost my sense of humor when it comes to the disconnect between today’s consumer and producer. Go to most any conference, and you’ll learn not to call yourself a “producer” or your business an “operation”. After all, the consumers may be reading, and you’ll sound like a disconnected bureaucrat whose only interest is making a buck.
Those of us who make a life in production agriculture know the difficulties and rewards, so I’m not going to take space preaching to the choir. However, I do believe the choir needs to start singing.
It’s state fair season across the Midwest. Whether you exhibit livestock, participate in 4-H and FFA events, or simply attend your favorite fair as a vacation day away from the ranch, you attend bearing the responsibility of being entrusted with the lifeblood of our country. Whether you’re out in Wranglers, a well-worn pair of boots, and your favorite hat or you’re most comfortable in shorts, tennis shoes, and a cap, you are the face of today’s agriculture.
And yes, I do encourage you to tell your story. Tell it through your genuine, patient words. Show it through your respectful, kind gestures.
You don’t have to shout your value from the rooftops, document your every step on social media, or debate your worth from a keyboard. I’m not suggesting you go-all-out with some grand gesture of agri-tourism. But, I do hope you know your value and appreciate your place at the global table even if no one else really understands it.
I hope you take time to listen when asked a question … to hear the yearning for reassurance under the veil of fear. I hope you don’t avoid eye contact with the family who has clearly never been in a barn but desperately wants to “pet a cow”. Don’t tolerate disrespect or look for a fight, but also don’t hide who you are and what you contribute to your community, your state, and your country.
There will be times when the best course of action is to bite your tongue, walk away, agree to disagree. After those encounters, find a friend and have a good, long undocumented discussion about today’s world.
But remember, there will also be times when the kindness you show or the time you take makes a positive impact … when the little girl proudly shares with her friends that she knows real butter comes from cows.
We “country folk” are a dying breed in a growing world of well-sanitized hands. Yet, we are entrusted with more than ever before.
Friends, I’m not all doom/gloom. I don’t consider my husband and I exempt from this little “pep talk”. For all the very real and dangerous stressors in our industry, I view agriculture as ripe with opportunity, but we must stay united.
We can’t lose sight of all we’ve been given, and we can’t lose ourselves amidst all that is—and will be –demanded of us.
We are ranchers. We are strong, capable leaders invested in the future through our land, our livestock, our families. Fight the good fight, friends. And, as the seasons change, I hope you’ll keep one of my favorite Irish blessings near:
May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine upon your window pane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near to you, and
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.