Back on the Farm

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Contributing Editor Walt Pickut
Contributing Editor Walt Pickut

Back on the farm? Some people never left!

Seventy-five years ago there were nearly seven million farms in the United States. Today, that number is closer to two million. But the ones who stayed on the farm are doing more than ever.

On average, farms are twice as big as they used to be, and every acre is more productive, but simply stated, today we all owe more and more to fewer and fewer very hard-working people.

Say Thank You!

One of the more interesting results is that fewer people today know where their food comes from. It’s not just not knowing where the farms are, but not even knowing what life is like on a farm. And that makes it even harder for today’s young people to imagine a future in farming.

That’s why this week’s edition of the Jamestown Gazette brings our readers news from the Future Farmers of America—now better known as the National FFA. February 20 to 27 this year will celebrate National FFA Week. Our guest contributor for the event is Sara Holthouse, a young local future-farmer herself.
Farmers grow things, both plant and animal, from corn to corn-fed beef, from chickens and eggs, to cows and milk, and to veggies of a million sorts. But maybe there’s a magic ingredient in all of it that is a little harder to appreciate for folks who are not farmers.

It’s not about the things they grow, but about the growing of things. To nurture something, care for it, understand its life and its needs—whether plant or animal—creates a special awareness of life itself. George Washington said it well. “Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.”

As a result, Sara’s story this week is not our typical news report but a personal expression of farm life. Her experience in the natural world helps us realize that agriculture is much more than a business. It is a profoundly life-changing way of life.

The experiences that Sara shares with our readers reflect more than an American story. This is a universal truth. Masanobu Fukuoka, the late Japanese philosopher, was also a farmer. He once said, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Our emphasis this week is designed to bring our readers closer to solutions for both a national and worldwide crisis in nutrition. Brenda Schoepp, a global leader in creating a future of food security said,

“My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, and a preacher. But every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.”

But just in case you already think you know all you need to know about farming and agriculture, here are a few other ideas to widen your horizons.

If corn farming seems to tame, consider California Carnivores, a plant farm in Forestville, CA, that grows more than 500 kinds of carnivorous, meat-eating, plants. Want to visit? Just BYOB—bring your own bugs for feeding time.
Are cows too tame for you? How about the moose-milk farm In Kostroma, Russia, where fifteen moose-cows produce milk for a local medical center where it’s used to treat a wide variety of unusual ailments.

Or if you want to raise critters that aren’t too hart to herd across a pasture, why not try snail wrangling? Instead of Herefords, try Helix polmatia, the slow-moving darling of high-end French restaurants. Lassos not needed at roundup time!

But whatever your preference—from ordinary to exotic—we hope you will be inspired by Sara’s experience. She echoes the words of Stephanie Nelson, actress and Instagram Influencer with her finger on the pulse of today’s youth.

“Because farming is inescapably a part of human life, it may provide a clue to what is most basically human, and so a clue to our place within the cosmos.”

Enjoy the read,
Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.