Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving is a holiday that comes once a year, but thanksgiving is something we should do each and every day. I am sitting here in the quiet of my office on this eve of Thanksgiving and it is easy to think of all the things that I have to be thankful for. We are so incredibly blessed to live in this country with our rights and freedoms.

Here in the Flint Hills it is easy to be thankful for all that God has created. I am so blessed to know where my food comes from and to be part of the patchwork fabric of farmers and ranchers who produce that food. Each morning I am allowed to breath the fresh, clean air of the land and look across the native grass prairie and remember why I love this land. I am so thankful of the animals I tend to and the crops I grow. Thankful of the food produced, the wholesome nutrition it provides and ultimately the security that food gives us.

I am thankful that I have the freedom to chose my own path, to pray in my own church and the opportunities each of us have because of where we live. I am thankful for those who gave up so much so I could live safely and comfortably. I am also ever mindful and thankful for those who are insuring that safety and comfort even now and risking their own lives.

I am grateful for a country where we have an abundance of food on our store shelves. I am so thankful for the technology at my fingertips both in my professional and personal lives. Those advances help maintain our place as the most developed country in the world. I am thankful of the infrastructure that allows us to easily travel and the commerce it encourages.

Free speech and the ability to express my thoughts without worry is another thing I am thankful for. We live in a country were we can disagree and not worry about the consequences. I am thankful to live in a country where I have the right and the ability to get involved in the government. I can vote without worry and have a say in the laws ruling our land.

All of these freedoms are because of the agricultural foundation of our country. Without food and fiber a nation cannot advance and prosper. It is no coincidence that our day of Thanksgiving is centered around a feast. Our forefathers could not have developed this great nation if they had constantly worried about hunger.

As we sit down to our meal tomorrow I would suggest the following. Let us be in prayer for those who sacrificed and are sacrificing their lives and well-being for our freedom and ours safety. Let us be grateful for those who pioneered the advances in technology that allowed us to prosper. Finally, let us be thankful for the abundant food and agriculture that forms the foundation of our nation and the security it provides.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thankful for Agriculture

Agriculture has always been at the heart of Thanksgiving and this year should be no different. However, the circumstances are very much different than the first Thanksgiving. We are so fortunate and so blessed to live in a nation so blessed with an abundance of food and fiber.

The first Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving because of the hardship and hunger they had survived during the first year. Few of us know true hunger and that is an incredible blessing. We live in a nation of grocery stores with full shelves and a restaurant around every corner. Food is such a common place that we have TV channels dedicated to food.

Think about it, we are so well-fed that we can chose to buy food that is organic or meat that is grass fed or free range. In developing countries those are not choices but realities. It is our modern technology that allows other farmers and ranchers to produce the sheer quantity of food needed to fill those store shelves and menus. The secret to our country's success is the security of knowing we will have enough food and that it will be affordable.

Our farmers and ranchers are always meeting the challenge of producing enough food to feed a growing population. I am so thankful that I have a choice of safe, nutritious food to select from for my Thanksgiving meal. I do not think that we fully comprehend or appreciate the blessing we enjoy in this great nation. We have an agricultural system capable of producing the food we need without us ever having to worry about our next meal.

So as many of us sit down to a great meal with so much food we need to think of the hardships those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving went through. We need to be thankful of the great fabric of agriculture that covers this nation. We need to be thankful for the technology that allows our farmers and ranchers to produce more food on fewer acres. Farmers and ranchers are truly the foundation of all that we have to be thankful for.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Passion, Pride and Food

I wish you could have spent the day with me. Today was the first day of the Kansas Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. Farmers and ranchers gathered for this two day meeting to decide the course of the largest agriculture organization in the state, and something I look forward to each year. It really helps me to remember why I am so proud to be involved in the feeding of the world.

If you could have spent the day you would come away feeling better about the food you eat and the environment we all share. You would hear conversations centered around learning more about farming and ranching practices that will both allow us to produce more food while preserving the world around us. You would realize that we are utilizing the latest tools and techniques, our vocation is truly based in science. The technology utilized in agriculture is truly amazing.

However, I think what would reassure even the greatest critic would be the passion and love for agriculture that you would hear in those conversations. You would hear a love for the land. Not just a passing attraction but a deep felt passion that is at the core of every farmer and rancher that I know. We talk about the land, animals and crops with a reverence reserved for the very essence of who we are.

It is that passion for our vocation that should offer you the greatest insight and comfort about the food you eat and the land we all share. Too often we are portrayed by anti-agriculture groups as greedy with no regard for the world around us when nothing could be farther from the truth. No matter the crops grown, livestock raised, small or large farm or ranch, organic or not we all share a love for plants, animals and land.

The land we live on is the very fabric of our families and has been for generations. The livestock and crops we raise are our lifeblood and command our respect. That is what I wish I could share with you, the passion, love and dedication that fills the hallways of our annual gathering and is shared by all of my fellow farmers and ranchers.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Humbled by Veteran's Sacrifice

Today is Veteran's Day, an official national holiday. On the surface it meant no mail, the banks were closed and I had the day off of work. However the day is much more than just a day off. I must admit when it comes to Veteran's Day I have a twinge of guilt and a feeling inadequacy. I start to think of all that Veterans have done for me and the freedoms that I enjoy and I am very humbled.

Each time I think of our service men and women putting themselves in harms way I realize they are far braver than I am. They sacrifice themselves for the freedoms that we all enjoy. Each time I write or say anything, many brave soldiers laid their lives on the line (or gave the ultimate sacrifice) for my right to do so. When I worship in the church of my choice without fear of being persecuted, I have those very heroes to thank.

Each spring when I watch a new calf or plant crops, I realize that because of the bravery of the soldiers in our military. I can work in the vocation of my choosing. I live in the greatest nation, the very nation that drives the economy of the world, the nation that feeds the world and the most advanced in the world. I live here in security and comfort because our Veterans sacrificed their lives and well-being on my behalf.

On this day I marvel at the bravery of those who willingly put themselves into battle. I wonder if I could do this and I am thankful that because of their courage I never had to make that decision. I cannot express my gratitude for what they have done for me and for those serving now are doing to protect our very way of life.

Words can never express, gratitude can never repay and anything I write is very inadequate for what our Veterans and Active Military have done for all of us. Anything I do is because of what they did and all I do, pales in comparison to their service to our great nation. All I can do is simply say Thank You and let them know that I am forever grateful for what they have given me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Morning Blessing

I don't know what it is about Sunday morning chores, but it seems they always remind me of how lucky I am to be involved in agriculture and to live in the Flint Hills. Often they are a reminder that religious experiences are not only reserved for churches. This morning was no exception.

The morning dawned crystal clear, chilly but not uncomfortable and the wind that was fierce yesterday was under control. The sky was that brilliant blue you see in the Flint Hills in the fall. The light wind rustled the leaves in the yard and the air smelled clean and fresh.

I fed the animals. They are settled into the pens that they will spend the winter in. There is something comfortable in knowing that you are prepared for the on-coming winter. The sheep and cattle in the barnyard were fed quickly, allowing me a quick moment to enjoy them being content. I looked up into the hills surrounding the house at the trees with their orange and yellow leaves mixed into the golden native grass.

My last choir was to feed the cows. I pulled into the pasture to unroll a bale and they eagerly ran to the pickup. They surrounded the truck as I unrolled the bale and quickly started eating at the ribbon of hay left in the wake. I paused for a second and watched a flock of turkeys hurry off the meadow, anxiously looking back at me and my bovine followers. On the far hill four deer meandered along the trail heading back from a night on the neighbor's corn field.

Right then and there I was again reminded that I am blessed to live in the Flint Hills and farm and ranch. That is why I spend all my free-time and weekends working the land and growing food. This is also why I constantly try to protect the land around me and treat my animals with the care and respect they need. I realize that I am here by the Grace of God and mornings like this morning serve as a reminder of my blessing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Neighbor and My Vote

A couple of weeks ago one of our neighbors passed away. He was over 90 years old at the time of his passing and truly was one of the "Greatest Generation". I grew up admiring him as a youth but by admiration only grew as I became an adult. That was when I really learned about what kind of man and patriot my neighbor was.

As a child he survived the Great Depression combined with the Dust Bowl. I cannot imagine the sacrifice and suffering that growing up the 20s and 30s must have meant. After that came World War II and he served our country, protecting our freedoms and enduring even more danger and hardship. Finally he came home, worked, saved and scrimped until he and his wife could buy a farm where they would raise their family. He loved agriculture, working the land and wanted no more than to go out and work his land each day.

What causes me to remember him today was his deep love for his country. I remember until just recently he marched with the American Legion as part of the color guard at nearly every parade. I also remember that he flew an American Flag every day in front of his home. He was proud to have served his country and even prouder to be a citizen of the United States. That love for this great nation is why I remember him on the eve of election day.

I am sure each of us knows a Lyle, and I hope everyone had a chance to really get to know someone like Lyle. He knew what true sacrifice for freedom and country meant and I know that he never took them for granted. I would also guess that he never took for granted the right he preserved for all of us to cast a ballot in a free election to determine the direction of the United States.

So as tomorrow rolls around, think back to someone you know from the "Greatest Generation" and think of everything they did to preserve your right to vote tomorrow. While you are at it, make sure you become informed about the candidates. I am not endorsing one party or the other, you were given the freedom to choose who you vote for, exercise that freedom too. I promise you that tomorrow I will proudly cast my ballot and just as proudly wear the sticker in memory of my neighbor, Lyle.