Extraordinary Farmers

Over the years, I have developed a deep respect and admiration for the farmers who work every day to feed us all.

They are ordinary folks who face extraordinary challenges. Every. Single. Day.

One of my grandfathers was a dairy farmer in Wisconsin. My father-in-law was a beef cattle farmer in Upstate New York. In high school, I had the privilege of working on a produce farm in southern New Jersey.

I’m not sure I thought of it as a privilege at the time.

Yet, in spite of the sunburns, bee stings, mosquito invasions, mud, sweat, and aches – it became an important experience in my life.

I got to see three generations of farmers work every day to grow delicious tomatoes, peppers, squash, cantaloupes, watermelons, corn, and much more.

I saw decades-old tractors coaxed into life on a daily basis.

On occasion, I saw a biplane buzz across the treetops to spray the fields.

I learned to drive. The first time I ever drove a vehicle was when I had to back one of the farm’s pickups into a small barn.

Yes, there were even turkeys, ducks, and geese on the farm.

Frankly, you haven’t lived until you spend a day working with a half-dozen people, herding hundreds of ducks from one pen to another. (It’s like herding cats… only they quack.)

It was hard work. Long hours spent in fields and greenhouses.

And I value it immensely, especially now that I work in a role where I often write about agriculture.

So it is no surprise that I took a moment to watch this video about South Jersey farmers that I stumbled across during the course of my workday:

 

It turns out that the video creator, Kathleen Poliski, is related to one of my high school friends.

Ms. Poliski’s video is one of ten finalists in the video contest for this year’s World Ag Expo. The other nine videos are definitely worth a view, too.

Take a moment before January 30th, and vote for your favorite.

I’m partial to this one from South Jersey.

 

The Great State Veggie Debate

Now that we’ve got a budget, it’s time to move on to the important legislation. Like selecting a “state vegetable.” Actually, this is one of those legislative debates that I might enjoy. (It’s true. I’m not a humorless critic of the state legislature.) Besides, I’m pretty fond of farming… this one might be fun.

According to recent news reports, there are bills circulating to designate the onion or its opponent, sweet corn, as New York’s state vegetable. There’s even a poll on the New York Farm Bureau’s Facebook page. Looks like corn’s winning. The Farm Bureau also suggested cabbage and pumpkins as possible contenders in this race. (Wouldn’t be fair though, because cabbage would always be “ahead.”)

Groan.

Wait, stay with me here.

So, who would I pick? Let’s look at the candidates:

  • Onions. While they are a necessity in my wife’s delicious chili, I’m not sure about this one. Might have to change New York’s welcome signs to say, “Welcome to New York. Don’t cry. It’s just the onions.”
  • Cabbage. No way. But I’m biased. I had a traumatic experience when I put my hand through a rotten head of cabbage while working on a produce farm as a kid. –shudder
  • Sweet Corn. A distinct possibility. Some folks may argue that corn is a grain and not a veggie. However, it is a favorite of my five-year old. Therefore, I’m calling it a vegetable. Tempting, but not my choice.
  • Pumpkins. Yeah… this should be the winner! You can carve them. You can make pie with them. You can launch them with a trebuchet.

Vote Pumpkin!

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