My grandfather used to say, “Once in your life you need a doctor, lawyer, policeman, or preacher but every day — three times a day — you need a farmer.”
To some this may be a catchy phrase but to others it has a deeper meaning.
We were working on a school project, Grandpa and I, about farming in the Great Depression. My father was born in the heart of that time and we talked about the economic hardships of the nation. The greatest value or most desired thing for families, both urban and rural, was steady access to food. A severe drought on the Prairies and the lack of currency to buy food complicated the situation.
It was during this discussion that he made this remark. I had forgotten it for decades as I busied myself with raising children, working and farming. It came back to me when I questioned my societal value and wondered what my legacy would be. Could I bring hope and light into the world at such a late stage? What did that look like? Were my roots so firmly planted in the soil that I feared walking a different path?
As these questions haunted me, I remembered the times I treasured — and like most rural children, I loved to be with my grandparents. By then they lived in town and bestowed treats on us that mother could not afford like store-bought cookies and Velveeta Cheese. I often relaxed in the kitchen and visited with these lovely mentors in my life. It was in reliving these memories that the conversation and the quote came back to me.
- More with Brenda Schoepp on the Alberta Farmer: It’s not just the price of beef that drives cattle values
What does it mean to be a farmer — the most honourable profession on Earth? Quite frankly, the importance of farming is so immense I struggle for words. But let me try.
There is an energy that runs from the soil through our veins that connects us in a deep way to the Earth. We cherish it and understand the instructions it gives. Each morning, the sheer beauty of the places in which we live captures us in a spiritual way — filling the day with an expressed gratitude. The space we occupy is immense and despite the expanse, we know every inch of it and enjoy watching our children explore that space freely.
Often isolated, we depend on neighbours, friends, and family members to weave the web of assurance that all is well, all will get done, and none need to pause to ask. The campfires on our own lawns and sledding on our own hills brings balance to our lives.
Farmers are ready and adaptable, and employ some of the most advanced technology on Earth. ‘Just a dumb farmer’ — a phrase you used to hear is being replaced with ‘wow’ factor as we lead in both science and technology. The real breakthroughs in the world are those that have to do with agriculture which is the basis for civilization. We cannot deny our importance.
Three times a day — an essential service because we are more than food. We are also the basis of energy, clothing, electronics, transportation, research, beauty, health and well-being, housing, communication and more. And what is so fascinating and important about farming is that we are regenerative. From the care we give our soils to the welfare of flock and animals to the science of our greenhouses and beauty of our flowers — we are the very threads in the fabric that weave through our nation.
This sense of pride is not lost on farmers around the world. Grandpa’s words are now in 36 languages; used for World Food Day and other global initiatives; and found on T-shirts and coffee mugs.
This letter that I recently received from Louisiana that brings the very depth and importance of farming right back to home.
Dear Miss Brenda,
This may be a different type of “contact” than you normally receive but wanted to share. I came across your farmer’s quote a couple months back and have used it as my email signature ever since. My wife and I reside near Crowley, Louisiana, which is a large farming area. We’ve both grown up on farms and still reside on the farm. My wife lost her father this past week, who himself was a rice & soybean farmer. During the eulogy, my wife opened with your quote and it brought so many smiles and comfort to all the farmers in the church, including my mother-in-law. Just wanted to share how you have touched a family in south Louisiana. Make it a great day!
Sincerely, Jude Boudreaux
Make it a great day — for you are a farmer.