By Guest Columnist Doug Carter, Rankin County Extension Agent
The older I get, the more I come to realize, however it was here, that I received the type of education no college could come close to offering. My only regret is that 100 million other American children never had the same opportunities I enjoyed—opportunities to bottle feed a calf, drive a truck and tractor through an empty field at the age of five (alone), hunting behind my home, spending summers working for my dad and grandfather as they introduced me to their world.
I remember spending summers working for my dad, uncles, and grandfather hauling hay. We cut, raked, baled, and hauled hay. We began Christmas morning like I began any other cold and winter morning, going to the chicken house and then opening the gates for my dad, as he fed hay to hundreds of hungry animals. I remember riding with my granddad in an old Ford Truck that had a three speed on the column transmission.
In the year 1790, 90% of the American population were farmers. Today, only 2% of the American population serve as farmers. I’m afraid as a nation we are beginning to witness the consequences of having raised multiple generations who have never looped the metal chain through a gate or ran through a field of freshly cut hay. As Extension Agents, we present programs to school children about Agriculture. Kids have argued with agents, that milk comes from the grocery store.
As a nation we have allowed TV to convince our children that all animals are cute and cuddly, then wonder why dozens of people get killed each year attempting to take pictures with bears, cougars and copperheads.
As a nation, we have replaced the garden hose, watering bucket, and outside chores, with things like cell phones, and I-pads, then we do not take time, to pay attention, to understand what it is doing to our kids.
There was a time when Americans consumed bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, fried eggs and a big glass of milk each morning and they rarely got fat. Why? Because after eating such a hardy breakfast, they went out to the fields and spent the next 13 hours fixing fences, hanging gates, delivering calves, plowing, harvesting hay, and harvesting grain.
Farm work is dirty, tiring, sometimes cruel and always difficult, which is why the percentage of Americans who engage in this work has declined with every generation. Yet, it was this type of upbringing that allowed a nation to produce men and women who pulled together to fight the enemy forces during the Second World War, explore the heavens, eradicate disease, and explore the oceans.
In my 27-year career with MSU Extension Service, I have had the privilege of working with some of the best families and hardest working, smartest, most competitive, most successful young people in our county. I have accompanied them to various contests in state and out of state and watched them excel time and time again. As the years went by, I have also had the privilege of watching them grow into very successful adults, and moms and dads.
There is just something about growing up on a farm.