27 August 2016 - Farm Families Give us a Great Legacy

As I continue my never-ending mission to help city people, that is ‘non-farm’ consumers, understand what agriculture is all about and why farms and ranches are so important to the well-being and economy of the United States, I sometimes think, perhaps I spend too much time on numbers, markets, weather, technology and biotechnology.

Maybe I should spend more time on things that we take for granted in agriculture, events that are the legacy of farm and ranch families... like family farms. They are not disappearing, they are changing, and in many cases they are growing larger, but they are still owned and operated by a family and have been for a long time. You don’t find that to be the case in corporate America any more, mergers and acquisitions happen all the time and well-known business names disappear with new owners.

But every year, farms and ranches that have been in the same family for s century or more are recognized in special programs all over the country. I was reminded of this legacy again this year at the Illinois State Fair when I emceed a program saluting Agriculture and I introduced the Centennial Farm families. A large number of families in the audience stood up. Then I introduced the Sesquicentennial Farm families, 150 years or more of family ownership, and again, a good number of people stood up.

At the Wisconsin State Fair, a family was recognized for 160 years, Dennis and Mary Cummings, whose ancestors came from Ireland and bought the land from the government in 1856, because it had hills, valleys, water and was green, just like their homeland of Ireland. Think of it, 160 years in the same family. And of course, if you go to the East Coast, you will find farms in the same family for two or three centuries.

Another note that makes me think about the important things in life - a lady in a suburb west of Chicago passed away a couple weeks ago. Ramona Feltes was her name and would you believe, she passed away in the same room where she was born 98 years ago. Ramona and her husband had nine children, eight boys and the last arrival was a girl.
They farmed in the suburb when it was all farm land and started selling produce from a table in their front yard on a busy highway coming out of Chicago.
As houses replaced farm land , their produce table grew into a large farmer’s market visited by thousands of people attracted to Sonny Acres Farms. (I’ll give you one guess why they spelled it Sonny instead of Sunny) Ramona’s mission became education, for adults and the tens of thousands of children who visited the farm on class trips for over half a century. Before they left, Ramona made sure they learned something about farming during their visit. That is the legacy of agriculture.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.