Walking through the Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fair, there was a very large crowd standing around the booth of a bathroom scale manufacturer. The booth vendor was very proud of its new model being introduced at the fair. “Listen to these features,” he announced to the growing crowd. “It’s calibrated to one-one-hundredth of a pound; it can measure your height as well, in feet or meters; it gives you a read-out in LED or in voice simulator; and that’s not all…” “Very impressive,” interrupted a none-too-slender sales rep for a chain of home furnishings stores, “but before I place an order I’ll have to try it out.” “Be my guest,” said the manufacturer graciously. No sooner had the sales rep taken his place on the scale than a loud, very robot-sounding voice issued forth, “One at a time, please, one at a time!”
The Iowa State Fair is indeed a time of celebration, a salute to our people and of our states’ agriculture roots. Acknowledging our state’s rich agricultural foundation is important. Knowing where it all began is critical as we move forward building our economy.
The best salute to our agricultural heritage that I’ve ever heard came from radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. Paul passed away in 2009 but his 1978 speech was condensed and delivered as the audio backdrop of an ad during this past Super Bowl. Below is his tribute:
And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.
“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait for lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.
“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer.