Agriculture has always been more than farming

Chancey Lane, 23, of Claresholm was the senior winner in the Alberta Young Speakers for Agriculture competition at the Calgary Stampede. This year’s topic was: Working in agriculture is more than just farming.

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.”

Many of you may recognize my opening line as part of a speech written by Paul Harvey. Those of you who drive a Dodge truck made in 2013 probably know the rest of the story. If you don’t know the speech, I encourage you to look it up. Dodge’s advertising team probably got a raise when it pitched using it in a truck commercial.

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When I looked at the topics, I knew instantly that ‘Working in agriculture is more than just farming’ was the topic for me. After all, I grew up on a cattle ranch in southern Alberta and while my hours on horseback are many, I am not afraid to admit that I have no experience farming.

In my mechanics class at Olds College, our teacher took us up to a combine and asked the class what we knew about the machine. While many kids knew everything there was to know about a combine, I blurted out, “I think this is the closest I’ve ever been to one!”

So speaking about being involved in agriculture and not tending a crop was something I could relate to.

Next I needed some inspiration. I spent a few days thinking about things to say when one day I was checking some cows and it hit me. That morning on my Facebook news feed ‘So God made a farmer’ popped up. Knowing the speech I scrolled over it. I stopped my horse in his tracks and pulled out my iPhone and hit the Internet and found Paul Harvey had written the speech way back in 1978.

So then there was an obvious problem since Paul Harvey put pen to paper agriculture has changed so much. The people are changing, the equipment is bigger and more powerful, and technology is beyond our grandparents’ dreams! It’s moving faster every day! We’ve gone from ‘Jesus take the wheel’ to ‘GPS take the wheel.’

I decided I could write a new version. Something that would, for a brief moment, say what it is to be involved in agriculture in 2017. For a minute I thought I could try to deliver it in a way that’s up to date, but Snapchat only lets you take a 10-second video.

This new version would change things. It would reconnect people to agriculture and give more of a feeling of what we do as farmers and ranchers. Paul Harvey may have covered it all in his speech, and in the year 2017, I’m sure every parent in this room is concerned about their child’s education. But the days of staying ’til midnight at a school board meeting have since past. And I sure hope that the availability of hospital care has fewer grandfathers delivering their own grandchildren. When it comes to cantankerous machinery, farmers employ whole dealerships that are there to fix things when they break down. Many farmers these days don’t even own horses, so the need to shoe them with old car tires and harness them up with harnesses made of feed sacks has long past, too. With improvements like air conditioning, auto steer, luxury seating and a buddy seat so that the kids aren’t riding on the fender, is aching ‘tractor back’ as big an issue as it was in the past?

With all these thoughts in my head I sat down with pen and paper and I wrote “Agriculture is so much more.”

Agriculture is so much more because the people of the world need someone to feed and nourish them, to work countless hours to fight poverty and starvation. To care for the gift of livestock and abundance of crops. To ensure the prosperity of mankind.

We need a farmer to do more than tend crops. The farmer is a businessman. To understand accounting, technology, economics and politics, and to tell the banker, ‘I need this, my livelihood depends on it.’ And do it from the cab of a tractor, the back of a horse, or the kitchen table surrounded by his family. Agriculture is so much more.

A farmer needs to be more than a caretaker of animals. He has to be a teacher of children, and open to the public’s critical eye, while trying to save the life of a dying calf or lamb or piglet. And watch it die and be held accountable by the people he is working to feed. And doing it with the compassion, sincerity, and feeling of loss that only a farmer can feel. Agriculture is so much more.

The farmer is an employer: Of the neighbour’s son who can’t stay out of trouble. Of the college students trying to pay their way through school. Of the trucker who hauls the grain and livestock. Of the person at the grain elevator and the brand inspector at the auction mart. Of the auctioneer and the train conductor hauling the grain. The farmer employs the operator at the mill, the pen rider at the feedlot, the workers at the slaughterhouse, the teenager stocking the shelves at the grocery store, the mechanic, and the carpenter and the welder. The farmer employs them all. Agriculture is so much more.

The farmer has to be understanding of the technology that exceeds his knowledge that drives his tractor and monitors his irrigation systems. That surpasses the traceability of the notebook, in the breast pocket of his shirt that only he can read.

He has to understand that his banker can’t always say yes. Or that he is a price-taker not a price-maker. And understand that being a farmer sometimes means saying no to the ones you love the most. Agriculture is so much more.

The farmer is the one who has fed our struggle for freedom; our present day’s strength rests on his shoulders. He is the businessman making the handshake deal, he is the caretaker, milking the cows or mending a calf’s broken leg. He isn’t just plowing a field, he is educating the world, caring for the environment, demanding advancements in technology to better utilize his resources. The farmer is understanding and ready to meet whatever Mother Nature throws his way.

The farmer is the father, the mother, the brother, the sister, and the teacher of the next generation of not just the consumer, but the farmers of the future. Agriculture is so much more.

It is easy to see that the farmer does a lot more than just farm.

Being involved in agriculture is so much more. People involved in agriculture have to be more flexible and willing to adapt than anyone else. Agriculture is always changing. Trying to ensure that we have the best product to sell to existing and new markets is an ongoing battle. The standard of quality and traceability is always being increased and as producers in Canada, we work constantly to keep up to not only the standards but the demand.

Agriculture is so much more than just farming. Agriculture is the force behind everything we do. It’s not just feeding people, it’s teaching people why we do things. It’s pushing technology to work for us, to make the world a better place with a healthier environment, and adopting practices that will ensure sustainability and that there will be a future for young people involved in agriculture.

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