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Field trip

By Holly Martin

I have a suggestion. If we truly want to fix our economy, if we truly want to make sure that it is fixed for good--let's schedule a field trip--to the farm.

Instead of sinking $787 billion into an economic stimulus bill, let's take just a portion of that and invite everyone to work at our farms and ranches for a while. We'll start with the people of Washington, D.C. Every senator, representative, lobbyist and government worker will spend a month or so actually working in the fields of rural America. Then we'll move on to corporate executives who have asked for bailout money, while continuing to accept lavish bonuses for doing such a terrific job. Perhaps welfare abusers should come too. And don't forget those involved in the sub-prime mortgage crisis. They shouldn't be denied the opportunity either.

Part of the problem with our economy, I believe, is the lack of personal responsibility individuals have for their actions. It appears there are people all over this country who have never learned that each individual is accountable for his or her own actions. It seems we have drifted into a way of thinking where we feel that "it's all good." Or, "if it doesn't work out, then someone else will fix it for me." We trade long-term stability for short-term rewards.

It is too easy to say, "my actions don't affect anyone else, so who cares if I don't follow through on my word?" On a farm, those statements are laughable. Personal responsibility is taught in nearly every situation on the farm.

Each and every day, animals depend on their caretakers to provide food and shelter for their well-being. Skip bedding the pens before a snowstorm and see how well the calves fare. Take a day off in the summer without checking waterers and see how well the pigs do on a 100-degree day without water.

Crops depend on the skills of producers to see them through to a bountiful harvest. Skip daily maintenance on the tractor before a day of field work and enjoy the frustration of breaking down 30 minutes from being done. Don't take time researching the latest hybrids for your area and watch your balance sheet as you miss out on potential yields and profits.

Farmers go to church and sit in the pews in front of their loan officers. They serve on school committees with bank presidents. Farmers and ranchers and their bankers interact daily in their personal lives as well as their professional ones. And so, each has invested in the other. The bank has invested in the farmer's business, trusting that he will do everything in his power to make it successful. In turn, the farmer knows his success is key in the future of the bank, so that it continues to be a resource for him and others in the community.

I'm not so naive to think that spending a few weeks in rural America will teach individuals personal responsibility that they should have learned as they grew up. Nor do I think personal responsibility is a trait reserved for farmers and ranchers.

I just know that I'm appalled at the ethical responsibility, or lack of it, I've observed lately in the business world. And I know where I learned how not to act that way--on the farm.

Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 1-800-452-7171 ext. 1806 or e-mail at hmartin@hpj.com.

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