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Letters to the editor
A friend and former colleague tells the story of growing up on a farm in Iowa where on occasion his “city cousins” would come to visit. He and his three brothers would watch their cousins exit the car and immediately begin climbing on the tractors, chasing the chickens, swinging on the farm gates, running through the barn…basically, in the eyes of these farm boys, acting silly.
Then my friend tells how several years later, after he was married and raising two boys in a Missouri city, they drove back to visit the farm. As soon as their car stopped, his two boys hopped out of the car and began climbing the tractors, chasing the chickens, swinging on the farm gates…yes, acting silly. It was then that he realized his boys had become the “city cousins.”
As a fifth-generation farmer of a Century Farm in northeast Missouri, I am fortunate to own the family farm where I grew up. The number of acres is the same, small by today’s standards but large enough 50 years ago to raise a family with three kids. Most of the barns are still standing, an unused silo towers above the landscape and fence rows have given way to crop farming that incorporates terraces, waterways and other soil conservation methods.
Fewer Americans than ever before have grown up on a farm, a statistic that is constantly refreshing itself as new. My kids are an example of the next generation that was raised in a city rather on a farm. Architecture, law, cosmetology and engineering became their lines of work rather than planting seeds or tending livestock.
Because agriculture is constantly changing and farmers are few in number, we must be involved in conversations and efforts to help the general public better understand what farming and ranching is all about, that steps are taken to keep food safe, that animals are treated humanely and that farmers implement practices to care for the environment.
Recently I had the occasion to be at the farm with some of my city cousins who are descendants of the 1876 founder of our family farm. My cousins had traveled from Massachusetts, North Carolina and Michigan to fulfill the wish of their elderly parents to be buried at a nearby church cemetery.
The professions of my cousins include a medical doctor, a lawyer and college administrators. While my relatives are obviously not farmers, they still expressed an appreciation and even a kind of love for agriculture that must have been passed to them from conversations about farming with their parents and grandparents. It is something that I must remind myself to do with my kids, the city cousins.
—Estil Fretwell, Director of Public Affairs with Missouri Farm Bureau and a fifth-generation farmer from northeast Missouri
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