Farmers and ranchers, I was thinking of you today. You hardly ever write any more. When I started writing this column 35 years ago I got lots of letters. Paul Harvey once sent me a box of 1,400 letters addressed to me. But not so much any more. I don’t know if I’ve run out of material, I’m not as good as I once was, or if you’ve simply grown tired of me
I wonder, is it because I no longer amuse or if people just don’t write letters any more like they used to. Letters are so out of fashion in an e mail and texting world. I have exactly zero followers on Facebook and I have no idea how to Twitter or Tweet. I’m such a dinosaur!
I tell myself that one of the reasons I don’t hear from as many of you is because I’m being taken for granted. I’m like an old hat or an old dog, you just assume that I’ll be there for you whenever you want. But this essay isn’t about me, it’s about you, the farmers and ranchers of this country. Talk about being taken for granted! Everything I’ve said about myself can be said about you, only 7.125 billion times over. That’s how many people you are helping to feed every day. I know what you mean to this country and the world’s hungry. When Americans sit down to eat they expect the food you grow and raise to just magically appear. When they go to the grocery store, farmer’s market or restaurant they just assume there will be Quarter Pounders, organic lettuce and filet mignons forever. We assume too much. It’s a sign of the times
Not only have you been taken for granted, you are seen as public enemy number one. You use too much water, too many pesticides, too much land, too much everything. And yet it is you who make their very existence possible. Figure that one out.
The problem is you’re not new any more and these days you have to be new to be in the news. We’re all about new boyfriends, new clothing styles, new lips, new ideas, new energy, new subscribers, new members, new customers and the next hot item. Old is out. You gotta have the newest I-Phone even if the old one works just fine. We want our cereal new and improved even if it’s just the packaging. It’s all about marketing and it doesn’t matter if you’ve done something good or bad, as long as it makes Entertainment Tonight, or has thousands of “hits” on You Tube. People become celebrities who haven’t done anything.
My problem, and yours too, is that we are old living in a new world. You and me, we’re not comfortable “reinventing ourselves” every six months. We just want to do our job and be appreciated once in awhile and we’re much too modest to constantly be bragging and marketing ourselves. In the business world this is known as the “theme park dilemma.” You always have to be building a bigger and better roller coaster.
It’s out with the old and in with the new.
What can we do to make ourselves more relevant? I know one thing, you cannot be like the guy who quits opening the car door for his girlfriend after they’re married. That’s just not you. You’re job is way too important to quit just because you don’t feel appreciated.
I imagine what you’ll do is run as fast as you can until you hit the finish line and if you’re lucky you’ll have a few retirement years to reflect on your life and your immense contribution to society. If you live long enough you’ll have the extreme pleasure of watching today’s young people get old and become passé themselves.
It’s a shame that we don’t appreciate people until we read about them in their obituary. This is true of artists, saddle makers, writers, farmers, ranchers, everyone. I fear that someday something will happen that will wake people up. Perhaps an event like 911 which reminded us about those heroes in hard hats… the firemen. It’s a shame it has to come to a food shortage or a famine to remind people that farmers and ranchers are heroes too.