Jun 9, 2020
NCAE Column: Strong people come to the forefront in troubled times

Hard times create strong people.

That must be why farm and ranch families are so tough. They’ve seen more than their share of hard times.

Think of it.

The cherry grower had a perfect bloom. No frost and the bees worked steadily without too much wind. It seemed as if every single flower had been carefully tended to by these critical workers. Then, after the bees had done their job, the remaining petals fell to the orchard floor.

The grower irrigated the orchard with just the right amount of always too scarce water and the trees seemed to revel in the nurture. The grower admired the set of the crop that resulted from these perfect conditions as his orchard now bowed from the weight of the ripening fruit, as the days lengthened and the sun warmed the earth.

Finally, it was harvest time. The workers had arrived and were ready to go to work, anxious for the start and the wages it would bring.

Then came the rain. No cherries. No work, nor wages to be made. Maybe next year. Hopefully, the banker will understand.

Hard times create strong people.

The rancher had a great breeding season. The cows all got bred and grazed on a luxurious pasture of grass kept green late because of intermittent rain. They fattened up with the plentiful feed and their growing, soon-to-be offspring. The cows’ hair lengthened as the days grew shorter, the nights longer, and the air became crisper.

The long cold nights of winter were easy to get through as the cows’ stores of energy from a good summer and the long fall kept them, and their unborn, cozy. Spring started to pop up, as did fresh grass and a few flowers here and there with chinook winds warming the plain. Then, the blizzard blew in drifting the snow and making roads impassable just as calves began to drop. The calves didn’t make it after the temperature plunged too far below zero. Neither did many of the cows. Well, there’s always next year.

Hard times create strong people.

The ground was no longer frozen and Spring rains held off as the plants went into the field. A lot of time and money had been spent discing up the ground, floating it and then bedding it up for the tomatoes. Even the flow of imported fruit seemed to slow as trade deals took hold and fuel costs, buoyed by new U.S. production, remained stable. Fertilizer costs had remained steady too.

The fruit came green and then slowly ripened into a hoped-for bumper crop. This seemed almost be too good to be true!

It was.

The roar that occurred at dusk had been preceded by ominous black clouds and the breeze had become a wind. The roar was from the hailstones that pummeled everything, stripping the trees of their leaves and flattening the field. The rain that came after assured survey of damage would be delayed. Well, that was that.

Hard times create strong people.

Hard times created what has been called the “Greatest Generation.” Forged by the First World War and having suffered through the Great Depression, this generation clamored into World War II and then lifted humanity with its strength, ingenuity and spirit. That was quite a legacy. This type of strength is what I have always found on America’s farms and ranches. That toughness leads us through hard times. That legacy of strong people endures.

Hard times create strong people and we, all of us, will be stronger after these hard times pass.

— Michael Marsh, president & CEO, National Council of Agricultural Employers





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