Dear Mr. President-to-Be
for Tri-State Livestock News
President Trump and former Vice President Biden,
We are the voice of agriculture.
We are America’s farmers and ranchers.
We raise sheep and cattle, chickens and hogs, corn and wheat, cotton and beans.
We feed Americans; we feed the world.
We are your supporters. We fly Make America Great flags along our highways and on our harvesting machinery; we use tillage equipment to etch ‘Biden/Harris’ into grain stubble.
We are the children of immigrants; our ancestors homesteaded the prairies and lived on nothing until they could coax life out of the unyielding sod. We are immigrant workers, living with bands of sheep on the mountains or picking fruit in the orchards. We are here because America promised a better life, freedom from tyranny, freedom to work and dream and make a living on her broad, fertile lands.
We work beside our parents and grandparents, our husbands, our wives, our children, our grandchildren. As old, gnarled, scarred hands of experience teach younger, clumsier hands how to hold the reins, the steering wheels, the pitchfork handles, the lessons of life lived are shared with another generation.
We follow your campaigns. We watch the news. We listen to your debates. We show up to vote.
But you don’t hear a lot from us.
We’re not ranting and raving in the streets. We’re not protesting or showing up at rallies. We don’t often make the news.
We’re too busy.
We work long hours, planting, harvesting, caring for our livestock. We balance checkbooks, file tax returns and read classified ads in the local farm paper for recreation. We change bearings and oil, chisel plow sweeps and diapers; we talk about the weather, we talk about politics, we talk about our teenagers’ struggles. We don’t leave the field before dark, but we will quit early to teach our kids how to play baseball on summer evenings or watch their high school football team on a Friday night. We drink coffee and talk to our neighbors in the feed store, the parts store, or the service garage while we wait for a ton of mineral to be loaded, an elusive bearing to be located, or a leaky tire to be patched.
We buy seed and fertilizer and fuel without a guarantee that we won’t lose our crop, lose a year’s work or lose our shirts. We plant in faith and plow in hope of a better year than last year, of rains at the right time, that the hail storm will miss us, that the prices will be decent in the fall.
We watch newborn calves nurse for the first time and we watch old horses die. We cradle the fluff of a newly hatched chick in our hands, we pat a faithful old dog on the head for the last time. We birth piglets and lambs, calves, puppies, kittens and colts. We saddle our horses and bring in the calves to wean and ship, knowing that the check is going to the banker, not knowing if it will quite cover all the loan payments.
We’re up all night combining to get the crop in before an early snow. Sometimes we only see our families when someone brings lunch to the field and the kids get to spend an hour in the combine before going home without us there to tuck them into bed at night. We’re up all night trying to bale alfalfa before a rain, praying that it will rain, but not before we get all the dry windrows baled. We’re up all night watching calving cows during March and April blizzards, surviving on coffee and adrenaline and sandwiches and half hour naps.
We are outdoors in all weathers: beating rain, scorching heat, bitter cold, unceasing winds. We battle drought and floods, insects, diseases and fires. We live with Mother Nature’s fickle whims, with the ever changing markets, with high input costs, high debt levels and low rates of return. We live with high stress levels and low wages, working jobs off the farm to make up the difference when a hailstorm, a market crash or a drought cut too deep into our annual income.
We do this work because it is our livelihood, but more importantly, because it is our life. We farm because our grandfathers did before us, and their grandfathers did before them. We farm because we fall in love with the land every time we smell the sweetness of freshly turned earth, every time we see the green wheatfields turning gold, every time we hear the calves bawling for their mothers, every morning when we see the sun rise, silhouetting the horizon against the glowing clouds.
We do so to feed our families, our fellow Americans, and hungry people around the world.
President Trump and Vice President Biden, we will choose one or the other of you to mark on our ballots next week. But ultimately, we are not just voting for you: we are voting for America.
We pray that you will work for her as we do.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the July 24, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News