Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stephen's "View From Here"

This is an article that Stephen was asked to write for our Florida Farm Bureau monthly magazine. I couldn't have said it better myself....

“…It was farmers that went over the mountains, cleared the land, and settled it, and farmed it, and hung on to their farms. …it was farmers who took all that country and made it America, son. Don’t you ever forget that.” (Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy, 1933)

That is why I am proud to be a farmer. Without a doubt our country’s success is directly tied to the farmers who have worked hard to succeed. We could not have done it alone; fortunately, we have had the support of our government from our nation’s inception. Our forefathers believed that a nation that could feed itself could not fail and maintaining that ability should rank among its highest priorities. George Washington said, “I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares.”

This past year I traveled with my church to southern Mexico, the center of origin for corn, but most fields there would barely yield 10 bushels/acre. That is 6% of America’s average corn yield. The farmers that were successful in Mexico learned to farm in America and took their knowledge back to Mexico. I saw the effects of a government with little priority toward developing its agriculture and therefore bringing its citizens beyond subsistence agriculture.

It requires a constant effort to educate our neighbors and political leaders of the challenges we face and how important it is to protect agriculture’s future, not simply for our own sake as farmers, but for our nation’s sake. American agriculture still needs the support of the federal, state, and local government. We need our land-grant institutions. We need the support of our neighbors. We face skyrocketing production costs, out of reach land prices, and volatile markets unlike any have ever seen. We have to ensure that our story is told and our importance is not forgotten. Through the Young Farmer and Rancher Leadership program I have been prepared to meet this challenge not just as a farmer, but an agricultural promoter and a citizen of this greatest of nations. I see that I cannot sit on the sidelines and expect someone else to speak for me; I must step out and be a leader. I have taken my first step by running as a candidate for my local Board of County Commissioners in this year’s election.

I am proud to be part of the 1.5% of our population that is tasked with feeding, clothing, and now recently fueling the remainder of the population. A daunting task, but well worth the effort. The words of Thomas Jefferson propel me forward: “Let the farmer forevermore be honored in his calling; for they who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God.

Stephen Fulford, 3rd generation farmer

Jefferson County

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