Thursday, November 27, 2014

Appreciating Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is this week! Wow, that does not seem possible, but I guess with the whirlwind pace of this fall anything is possible. I always marvel at the perfect timing of Thanksgiving for those of us in agriculture. It is right after harvest and gives us a time to stop and reflect on the many blessings in our lives. I guess I should not be surprised, this nation was agricultural at heart at the time when Thanksgiving started, and it’s too bad we seem to have forgotten that over the years.
I guess that goes right along with the current trends in society when it comes to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving used to be a day for just that, thanks giving. Not too long ago nearly every business, save a few restaurants, were closed. It was a foregone conclusion that on Thanksgiving you would spend the day with your family and nothing else. It was a day of family, giving thanks for all that you had and a feast. Somehow we seem to be losing all of that.
Black Friday started creeping into our vocabulary; stores started opening earlier and earlier on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Soon midnight on Friday wasn’t good enough and stores opened on our national holiday. We shouldn’t be surprised; our society seems to value over indulgence and a me-first attitude over family and appreciation for what we have. A great deal of this societal change can probably be attributed to not being tied as closely to agriculture.
Most of us in production agriculture have finished harvest. We are nearing the end of the year and starting to look at the year financially. Most of us are compiling that information for our accountants and we have a good idea of our income for the year. In the past we would have taken account of full haylofts, grain bins and livestock pens in preparation for the upcoming winter. In any case, the idea is the same, this is the time of the year that we can see what a year’s worth of hard labor has brought us.
I think it is much easier to be thankful when the bulk of your income comes in once a year.  Hope starts in the late winter and spring when calving and lambing start and carries through planting season. Then we watch as the crops and livestock grow. Finally comes fall with harvest and weaning and a constant workload. Then, about Thanksgiving, fall work is complete and all of the harvest is laid out before us. Even in the poorest of years it is easy to be Thankful for all God has blessed us with.
Being a part of agriculture I know the sweat and sacrifice it took to bring the food to the table on Thanksgiving and I know it is a small reminder of how blessed I am throughout the year. I live in a country where, for most of us, food is not an issue, we have a safe home filled with many conveniences and we are safe to go about our daily lives. We are free to do what we want and worship where we want. We should want desire nothing more and we should find it easy to spend a whole day giving thanks.
However, I think many of us are too far away from agriculture and harvest that we have lost perspective on just how blessed we really are. Our paychecks show up in the bank every two weeks, we really have anything we want and we have never gone without any of the basic necessities of life. That is why we worry more about shopping and bargains than being thankful for what we already have and spending time with our families.
Am I saying that all of the Christmas Shopping hype, Black Friday and even the Thanksgiving Day store openings are a bad thing, maybe? That is another topic for another day. My point is that we all need to stop, look around and give thanks for all of the many blessings we have in our daily lives. We need to be thankful for the family we spend the day with and not worry about any outside distractions. Each of us have been blessed far beyond what we deserve. That is why, on this Thanksgiving, I am eternally thankful.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I Voted for SFC Robertson

I voted this morning and I was proud and honored to do so. I know this was a very long and contentious campaign and I was just as tired of the ads and phone calls as anyone. I do not like what our society has degenerated campaigns and elections into. Although I suspect this is what people have said in every election cycle our United States of America have gone through. That still doesn’t mean I like it.
I was thoroughly disgusted with all the candidates and really questioning why we go through with this whole process. Then I was reminded. November 3, 2013 is a date that will remain stamped in my memory as long as I am alive. It is the day SFC. Forrest Robertson was killed in action in Afghanistan. He was the first person I had ever met in person who was killed in the line of duty and it has made a lasting impression on me.
Without a doubt SFC. Robertson is a hero. He served multiple deployments overseas doing a job most of us could not and protecting all of us. He sacrificed himself so that we could be safe and free. I know his family and I have seen the pain and the pride they have felt in the past year. Pain because this incredible man, husband, father and son were taken from them but also pride in knowing that he died a hero, protecting us and inspiring his men.
Monday night, I sat watching the attack ads, answering the phone calls and throwing away the political fliers, fed up with the whole process. I just wanted to lock the door, shut off the TV and disconnect the phone and forget about the whole election process. Then I saw the reminders about Monday being the one year anniversary of SFC. Robertson’s death in Facebook posts from his mother-in-law. Sunday those emotions had come to the surface in Sunday school class, one I attend with his mother-in-law and wife, and suddenly I got it.
Voting is something that is bigger than negative campaigning, much more important than the silliness all of these candidates have stooped too and certainly worth any inconvenience I may have suffered because of any of them. We often see people in other countries turn out to vote in spite of violence and danger, yet we take our right to vote for granted. We can vote in safety because of the sacrifice and heroism of men and women like SFC. Forrest Robertson. Never take that for granted.
At that moment I decided to dedicate my vote this year and my vote in every upcoming election cycle to Forrest. He can never again cast a vote so it is important that each and every one of us do so in his honor. Will I vote the way he would have?  I have no way of knowing, but that is not important. What is important is that we realize the sacrifices that have been made for us and not let them go by the wayside. Exercise your freedoms and your rights and protect them because they came at a great cost.
I will walk into the voting booth this year solemnly knowing the high cost that was paid to afford me the right to cast my ballot. I will cast my vote with the memory of SFC. Forrest Robertson.  Without his sacrifices and the sacrifices of the many, many heroes before and after him it is a vote that might not have gotten cast. This is the first time I have ever voted and truly had some understanding of the magnitude of what I am doing. I am forever humbled and vow to never take that right lightly.
The fact that Veteran’s Day is this week is also not lost on me and I hope that each of you will take the time to honor our fallen heroes like SFC. Robertson and those who are still with us. Each of them made a sacrifice and many still carry the cost of that sacrifice. We enjoy our rights and freedoms because of those sacrifices. Freedom is something I hope each of us hold in the highest regard and never let anything or anyone diminish it. It is our duty to SFC. Forrest Robertson.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

No Mailers, Ads or Calls. Post-Election Now What?

This is the week we have all dreamed of for about six months now. The elections are over and most of us could not be more relieved. Well, I guess unless you are a printing service, voice over actor, U.S. Postal executive, TV ad salesman or political pundit. I don’t know about you but I have never been so happy to get less mail and watch toilet paper commercials in my life.
It seems like each election cycle the ads get less and less civil. Elections now have become more about finding dirt on your opponent or telling us about how bad his or her decisions are and not about where you stand on the issues or what you will do if elected. Let me stop right now to let you know that I am not pointing the finger at any one candidate because all of them are guilty. Interest in civic duty and elections are at an all time low and many people are turned off by candidate’s actions. I suspect it is a reflection of our society in general but it in any case it is unacceptable. 
Can we break this downward spiral of nastiness and mudslinging? It all starts with us as voters; it is our responsibility to push for more accountability from elected officials and candidates alike. We are the ones who have said we don’t have time for anything more than 30 second sound bites and slick flyers. Reading and investigating where candidates stand take too much of the time we don’t have. That, my friends, needs to change.
Becoming informed voters is one of our greatest civic duties and, in fact, it may be the most important.  We need to start following our elected officials actions whether they are in D.C., Topeka or our county seat. It may be hard to know where they stand on issues during a campaign but it should be much clearer when they are on the job. If their stands on issues are not clear then you may have your answer for the next election.
If their stand is different than yours take time to correspond with them and find out why. Tell them your view point and back it up. If they choose to differ then you have every reason to look for another candidate who more closely follows your viewpoint. Don’t just confine this to one issue either; make sure you look at their whole body of work. Are they working to represent the values and ideas of the majority of the voters in your area?
I know this is all Civics 101 and we learned it back in grade school. Somehow I think we have all forgotten what we were taught. Remember how excited you were the first time you got to vote? OK, maybe everyone is not the political nerd I am, but our right to vote is one of the most important rights we have. Are we valuing it and treating it with the same reverence we should? Are our candidates treating us with the same respect and reverence they should? In either case I suspect the answer is no and we need to go back to elementary school civics to change it.
That is why this short period between elections (and it is getting shorter all the time) is so critical. We need to make sure our elected officials know we are watching and that we care. If we don’t agree with them we need to start looking for a candidate who best matches our values and beliefs and work to get them elected. That is when we can demand more from the campaigns of our candidates.
As informed, educated citizens who have been part of the process year round, we can demand more information and less negative ads. We can find out where our candidates stand and have civil debates among ourselves about the direction our great nation should be headed. Our candidates could debate each other talking about the issues while we listen thoughtfully. That would be a far cry from the sharp attacks on each other, while the crowd yells down the other side, that we saw in debates this year.
I know a certain amount of this has happened in every election since Washington but I am sure it is getting worse each election cycle. That is why I am asking, really pleading, with each of you as fellow voters and citizens to ask for a change, demand better. Then maybe an election year won’t be something we dread with relief coming the first Wednesday in November.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Haunted Hayrack for Farmers

Halloween is this week.  I have to admit that Halloween has lost most of its luster at our house. My kids are teenagers so they are not going out and trick-or-treating (or they better not be) and therefore Dad does not have any candy buckets to raid. The only candy I get now is what we buy just in case we have a trick-or-treater (as if I need any candy). That is OK because this year looks like just another day of harvest for Halloween anyway.
Halloween always makes me think of the old Peanuts cartoon where Linus is looking for the perfect pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin. He sure would have a dilemma around our neck of the woods, we now have several patches that he would have to drive out to and take a look at. You might say we have a proliferation of pumpkin patches (although you wouldn’t say it very fast). I think pumpkin patches and agri-tourism are great but I also think maybe they are missing a golden opportunity.
One morning while driving over to check cows I had a brilliant idea (that doesn’t happen very often so you better pay attention). What this country needs is a haunted hayrack ride for farmers and ranchers. We Ag producers are a jumpy bunch and scaring us would not be hard to do. Just think back to what makes you jump, cringe or want to hide and we can combine all of those into one spectacularly spooky hayrack ride.
The ride would start off with driving over a hill and seeing that your cows were out in the neighbor’s corn field. This not only scares the stuffing out of any cattleman but also incorporates a corn maze without all of the hassle of planning an entrance, exit or cutting trails. Just bale off of the wagon and follow a twisted wreckage of corn stalks.
Next stop would be a combine in a field of soybeans, the bin would be full and the engine would mysteriously die. In the background you would see flashes of lightening and hear claps of thunder. No matter what you do the combine will not restart and rain begins to spray the crowd.
If that is not terrifying enough, the hayrack would move on to a brushy pasture, in the distance you can see a cow. You get closer and closer and realize that something is not right and that is when you notice the problem. There they are two, tiny hooves pointing up and to the back.  Just as you see the problem, the cow throws her head up in the air and disappears in the brush.
The ride continues and as you travel around a bend in the road you see a perfectly clean field of milo, suddenly everything goes dark and when the light comes back on weeds have covered up every sign of a crop (or the milo could be lying on the ground, you take your pick). The lights go out again and when they come back on you see sheep out in the field happily eating the heads of grain, blissfully unaware of the mayhem ingesting all that grain will cause for their owner.
Just as the ride reaches its farthest point, a place where there is no cell phone reception, the tractor pulling the hayrack starts to make a terrible racket, smoke billows out from the engine and the tractor dies. As you get off of the wagon to look at the tractor a mechanic runs out of the shadows, hands you a bill worth more than the tractor, tells you he will be back on Thursday and runs off into the night.
You walk back to the start of the ride, carrying a baby calf you found, through a snow storm with howling winds. As you approach the safety of the homestead you will be rushed by a crowd of salesmen, survey takers, politicians, out of state hunters and neighbor kids selling magazines. Then as you finally break free of that crowd you will notice the flat tire on your pickup. That is when you pass out from fear.
It is a great idea and it will scare the socks off of even the bravest farmer or rancher. Well, it was a great idea until I remembered two things. First, any self respecting farmer or rancher is too tight to pay for something they get for free each day. Second, no one will ever show up because even if they had decided to come, a real life disaster probably made it so they couldn’t get away.