In Praise of the Rural Life

Dodge ran a commercial during Sunday’s Super Bowl that sparked memories for me and my friends. Featuring a series of evocative images of U.S. agricultural life and landowners, the two-minute spot is narrated by the late, great broadcaster Paul Harvey, drawing from a speech Harvey gave at a Future Farmers of America convention.

Since Sunday, I’ve gotten emails and phone calls from folks who know I spend most of my time in the country where I also work on conservation issues related to agriculture and the Farm Bill. I must admit I got a goose bump or two when I heard Harvey’s old, familiar voice.

The memory lots of people have of their grandparents’ farm or their uncle’s ranch is encapsulated in Mr. Harvey’s comforting tone and wholesome subject matter. I’m pleased that a nation full of an increasing number of urbanites found the opportunity to reflect on the rural life that created and sustains this country.

Farms are where our food comes from, where our fish and game live and where our future resides. While I’ll avoid the cliché reference to the rest of the story out of respect, I can’t help but hope that there is a continued story to tell of the American farmer and his or her love for the land, hopefully as expressed through the stewardship of our collective natural resources.

We should take heed of the image developed of the farmer in this brief attempt to sell trucks.  Our soil and water are under increasing demand as the world creates more mouths to feed and more alternative uses for grain products. The fish and wildlife that so many of us respectfully pursue depend on the quality and quantity of clean air and clean water as much as we do, and as such, fish and wildlife depend in no small measure on the American farmer.

I hope this commercial and this trip down memory lane with an American icon remind us all that farmers and ranchers are vital to this country: We all depend on what they do and ultimately, how they do it.