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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Today is National Farmers Day

I grew up in town but I lived my early years surrounded by farmers - my aunts and uncles, and my dad's customers. I loved visiting my Uncle Joe and Aunt Frances. Uncle Joe would let me tag along as we walked through the pasture "calling" the cows in for their milking. Then the ultimate treat - all the kitties would gather as he sat down by the first cow and squirted some milk towards the dishes along the wall. I loved the milky-faced kittens as they cleaned themselves and consumed their fair share of their treat. My Uncle Emmet had a "modern" dairy farm and his milking machines far surpassed anything Uncle Joe had, but I didn't see any kitties hanging around.

Dad had a heavy-equipment construction business and farmers were his main customers. I loved it when he took me along as he went out to farms to bid jobs. He didn't talk to me a lot but I heard him discussing ponds, terraces, brush cleaning and more. Of course, the biggest thrill was when I got to drive the truck across a bumpy field of black dirt or ride on a bulldozer.

I grew up and farming grew more distant. When we bought an acreage out in the country, Dad loved having a few calves every year. But other than that, I knew little of farming except reading about the economic woes in the 1980s.

This past summer Iowa farmers re-introduced me to the challenges they face.

A few weeks ago, I visited a Missouri farm - the Prairie Star Restoration Farm. Owners Bruce and Jan Sassman have worked with the Missouri Department of Conservation to restore their property to its native habitat.

I find myself amazed at the changes - the number of acres required to make a living, the college educations that most farmers today possess, the scientific advances and the modern equipment, and the focus on conservation.

But one thing reminds me of my youth. Farmers love the earth. They love rich dirt, nature, the seasons of the year, the planting and harvesting cycles, the family commitment, and more. They enjoy strategizing the most effective use of their land to maximize output.

I salute all farmers today. I appreciate the work they do, the advances they've made, and the history that lies behind them.

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