From one scoop to another

Happy National Agriculture Week! I realize the week is half over, but agriculture production, innovation, research and processing happens every day, everywhere around us.

We shouldn’t be celebrating agriculture just one week out of the year; we should be celebrating agriculture every day.

From the cotton fields of North Carolina to the California vineyards, and from the cattle ranches of Texas to the corn rows of Minnesota — from the food on our plates to the britches on our behinds, agriculture is at the forefront of our everyday lives.

Agriculture touches so much around us that we tend to forget it is there — kind of like the air we breathe.

As I was trying to think of a farm tale to share with you, I kept thinking of my own family. My parents were part-time farmers with full-time jobs. Mom worked at Campbell’s Soup, pulling chicken meat off of wing bones; my Dad worked on the kill floor and eventually in packaging for Iowa Beef Processors. My three brothers and I were blue-collar kids spending our summers picking rock, walking beans, gathering eggs and feeding livestock.

Personally, I’d say it was the best childhood anyone could ask for, except for those dreaded tasks of baling hay and scooping manure.

That latter part — scooping manure — was a job I ended up doing more often than any of my three brothers, combined. The goat and the sheep herds were mine, and scooping their poop was just part of my job as a farmer. There was no such thing as a skid-loader on our farm back then. It was pure dirty, smelly, manual farm labor and it always seemed to take forever to get the pens clean.

 Pipes — bulging arm muscles — are never a good look for a girl, but I was a big-boned, German-rooted farm girl, and those pipes I built up in my teen years were the direct result of carrying five-gallon buckets of feed and shoveling soiled straw.

I wouldn’t say those pipes are sagging yet, but they sure haven’t been used like they were back then.

Trading in one scoop for another does that, I suppose.

Yes, I went from scooping manure in my teen years to searching for the scoop as a newspaper reporter and career woman. Agriculture is one of my beats, and I tend to travel with a pair of boots in the back of my car — waiting for my next on-the-farm interview.

Agriculture is still very much a part of who I am; it always will be. And, while production agriculture appears much different today from my growing-up years, it’s still the same. There are still farmers who tend to their animals and their crops. They put their heart and soul into the work they do, and that will never change.

So, thanks farmers — whether you’re retired or just plain tired — your work doesn’t go unnoticed.

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