One of the most annoying things about Farm Bill debates is that the majority of discussions are about money, not policy. Activist groups that I like to call – anti-farm or anti-food security – make farmers out to be free-loaders, loudly spouting off about direct payments and subsidies. I venture a guess that nearly all of these folks who like to use farmers as punching bags are not hungry or homeless. They probably enjoy hearty meals each day, thanks to guess who? Our nation has the most affordable, most accessible high quality food with the most choices of food items of any country in the world because of hardworking American farmers. And, with billions in cuts to farm programs, including direct payments, this is an old argument.
I am currently writing about a group of farmers in a remote rural community near Ewing who lost a neighborhood lunch counter and general store and needed a gathering place to have lunch, without having to drive into town. They didn’t wait around for a federal handout. They took matters into their own hands, assessing the needs and starting up a seasonal, rural café. (You’ll read more about the Sunny Brook Café south of Ewing in a future print issue of Nebraska Farmer.)
One of the ladies running the café told me during our interview that some people seem to feel that farmers only want handouts. That attitude kind of upset her. She said, “Farmers don’t wait around for handouts. We see a need and we roll up our sleeves and do something about it.” And that’s exactly what she and her sister and brothers are doing by operating this rural café.
When it came time in the old days to shell corn, thresh grain or cut silage, neighboring farmers usually banded together, pitched in, and got the job done, then moved on to the next farm and did it all over again.
Similarly, when my hometown of Crofton wanted to build a golf course along Lewis and Clark Lake in the late 1980s, many experts told organizers that it couldn’t be done. But a solid, determined group of farmers and retired farmers wouldn’t listen to that advice. They dove through the paperwork, surveyed the land, worked out leases and planned out the course. Lakeview Golf Course came to pass because a bunch of farmers brought their tractors, disks and drills to seed fairways and greens, to cut cedar trees and landscape the course. What they built was one of the most beautiful, but challenging public golf courses in the state.
You see it every day in rural communities. When schools, churches and community groups need equipment, expert construction advice or a helping hand, farmers come to town to pitch in. They have a diverse knowledge base and they often put it to good use by helping their neighbors, their communities and their families. Farmers are the farthest thing from free-loaders in this country. I only wish a few of those anti-farm group leaders could witness some of the generosity and determination that Nebraska Farmer editor, Don McCabe and I experience when we’re on the road interviewing farmers and ranchers.
Here is this week’s discussion question. Do you have an urban friend or relative who believes that the Farm Bill is all about handouts to farmers? Let us know about your experiences and how you handled it.
Check out Nebraska Farmer online for the latest news on the growing and grazing season. You can read my Small Farm, Big Vision column in Dakota Farmer magazine, or follow Husker Home Place on Twitter. And watch this blog the last Friday of every month for my new “Field Editor’s Report” featuring the positive stories about the families who raise our food. Pass it on!