Some of my most enduring, favorite memories involve childhood visits to the farm of my maternal grandparents. They had a tidy, efficient place near Tilden, Nebraska. I still remember tagging along with grandpa while he took care of the hogs and cattle. I can still visualize him on driving his red tractor as he planted, and cultivated his field crops. Meantime, grandma took care of the chickens and daily gathered eggs. She busied herself with the sundry chores that kept the farm going.
My paternal grandparents had already “moved to town” by the time I was born, so I only shared the stories about their farming experiences. The fact is, both of my parents grew up on farms. They automatically gave my siblings and me an awareness of what farming is and its importance.
Small farms, like those of my grandparents, have become fewer and fewer as farms have consolidated and become large, industrialized entities. That means the majority of Americans now live in towns and cities. The culture of the US is clearly urban and not rural, anymore. During the past few decades, we have been slowly but surely losing track of our rural roots. This disconnect was already becoming very obvious by the middle of the 20th Century.
A chance conversation between two passengers on a train traveling from Chicago to Washington DC was the seed that grew into the present Farm City Week commemoration. Agriculture and Conservation committee chairman of the Kiwanis International organization, Merle H. Tucker, casually chatted with Vermont businessman Charles Bennett. Their conversation eventually turned to the, then current, financial hardships facing the nation’s farmers.
The two expressed concern over the statistics that the domestic agriculture industry had lost more than a million farms between 1950 and 1955. Net average farm income had also drastically declined, but farming costs and indebtedness were steadily increasing. The financial plight only fueled further declines in the number of America’s farms. This also caused a negative public perception of farmers.
Tucker and Bennett expressed their worries about the bad perception of agriculture and the dominant urban influence on farm policies. These facts coupled with more Americans having no more direct ties to farming and ranching. The two men believed that farmers and city folk would only continue to further drift apart.
That year Bennett began publicising his concerns and soon co-created the National Farm City Committee with Kiwanis International. The idea was to maintain and continue better understanding between the agricultural communities and residents of cities. Kiwanis Clubs were the main coordinators until 1988, when the Farm Bureau and various farm organizations took over the tasks.
Farm city Week consists of the days leading up to and including the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. In many areas, committee members speak at school convocations, or in classroom settings to educate pupils and their teachers about agriculture and current concerns. They utilize activity materials at civic club meetings and community wide Farm City events. Some of the events include banquets, farm or ranch tours, and job exchanges.
The main takeaway from Farm City Week is that all of us are interdependent. Without exception, we all need to eat food in order to thrive and stay alive. Farmers need manufactured items like implements and computers in order to do their jobs.
Regardless of your career or how you live, the interactions between farms and cities come into play.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this nostalgic quote from actor James Earl Jones: “I think the extent to which I have any balance at all, any mental balance, is because of being a farm kid and being raised in those isolated rural areas.”