|Bright Ideas, Brighter Future: Leaving a Legacy|
|April 13, 2012 Jody Lamp|
The phrase, “generations removed from the farm/ranch” becomes even more real when statistics from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) state that with more than 285 million people living in the United States today, less than one percent claim farming as an occupation. Compare today’s numbers to 77 years ago in 1935, when U.S. farms peaked at 6.8 million with the population at 127 million citizens.
And here’s the caveat ~ although the number of farms has declined, the demand for agricultural products has increased and the average age of farmers continues to rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 40 percent of the farmers in this country are 55 years old or older.
Obviously, the graying of the farm population has led to concerns about the long-term health of family farms as an American institution, which also has U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan, traveling to universities around the country encouraging more students to think about agricultural as a viable career option.
To ensure the sustainability of American agriculture, we must act now. Each one of us can take a part in this process. So what, if you didn’t grow up on a farm or don’t live on one now. You eat food, don’t you? Then get involved.
About a year ago, my husband and I attended the annual Young Ag Couples Conference in Helena, Mont. Sponsored by the Montana Department of Agriculture in cooperation with Montana’s agricultural organizations, we, along with 20 other young farm and ranch couples, learned communication skills, successful agriculture practices, estate planning, and other aspects of leadership.
Ron Hanson, an agriculture economist and agribusiness professor at the University of Nebraska was amongst the featured speakers and talked about the need for communications in family farm operations. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Hanson and the other attendees about what my purpose was at the conference and what I hoped to gain.
“Are you a farmer?”
Are you a rancher?”
When I got asked the question, “Well, what do you do?” it was my opportunity to share with the couples that my job was talk to people, like themselves, and share their stories with the public, who may be generations removed from the farm/ranch, to help educate and promote agriculture.
“Basically,” I would say, “I’m an advocate for agriculture.”
Get Your Hands Dirty!
Recently, the Nebraska Farm Bureau launched the “Let Me Get My Hands Dirty,” a year-long campaign for adults and children to voice their concerns over the Department of Labor’s proposed regulation dealing with children working in agriculture. The campaign’s theme centers on the idea of allowing young people to continue to “get their hands dirty” on the farm because the rule greatly limits what children under the age of 15 could do on any farm or ranch.
According to the Nebraska Farm Bureau website, at the 2012 Nebraska FFA Convention in Lincoln, farm bureau president, Steve Nelson, said the organization would not allow the DOL to attack the core and heritage of Nebraska agriculture. He said the DOL’s proposed rule is written so broadly that it would prevent children, who are working on a farm that isn’t owned by their parents, from doing such basic tasks such working with livestock, or even operating a battery-powered flashlight or screwdriver.
While not denying safety issues of children working in agriculture alongside their parents, the Nebraska Farm Bureau is asking 4-H and FFA students, detasslers and anyone with an interest in agriculture to sign a paper handprint. The prints will be collected and eventually sent to DOL to illustrate how many people, both young and old, are opposed to the proposed rule. Please, if you have a story to share about your experience growing up on a farm and working alongside your parents or grandparents, go to www.nefb.org and click on the “Let Me Get My Hands Dirty” logo.
Remembering an Era
When I think of leaving a legacy and the people I know in agriculture that have made a lasting impression in my life, I think of my friend, Kris Lupher, formerly of Minatare, and his family. I remember as little girl going to Lupher’s Elevator at the end of Minatare’s Main Street with my dad to pick up horse feed.
Back then, I didn’t realize all the crops and products also associated with the grain and feed mill and its state-of-the-art cement storage facility, built in the early 1940s. I asked Kris, who worked at the elevator alongside his grandfather L.P., and father, Kermit, to share some history and the role his mother, Luci, had in its success.
“My grandpa, L.P. ”Dave” Lupher, my dad, Kerm, and my uncle Jack, all took part in teaching me that more than sore muscles are to be gained from hard work,” Kris said. “The work ethic and self respect that I gained here were the greatest gifts.”
Although, Luci, wasn’t directly involved in the elevator, her devotion to running the household allowed her husband to concentrate on the family business. The Luphers sold the elevator in 1989 and Kerm passed away April 10, 1999. Just 13 years later, this past week, Kerm’s lovely, but feisty, Luci, joined in him in their heavenly home, on April 4.
“There are a million memories of mom, but I guess the thing I most remember and appreciate about her is that she was a solid person,” Kris shared. “She taught us to be genuine, loyal to your loved ones, strong enough to stand up for what is right even if it means you stand alone. She taught us that you don’t have to be perfect, but you must be perfectly willing to do put your heart and soul into doing things the right way.”
We’ve reached a point that the first and second generations who settled the western Nebraska valley will no longer be here. Think about you can do today to share the lessons and stories you learned from your grandparents’ agricultural roots for future generations to enjoy.
Read more by Jody Lamp