I spent the better part of my young adult life trying to be something different.
I vividly remember being 15 or 16 years old and knowing, with out a doubt I wanted to leave what I saw as a one horse town. I wanted desperately to live my life, not the life my parents wanted for me, not the life my community wanted for me - MY life. For as long as I can remember, I viewed success as leaving. Leaving my home town. Leaving my family farm. Leaving behind the lifestyle my parents lived.
I know my grandmother told me more than once the life to live was not the life in rural southwest Missouri.
I've spent the better part of my late teens and twenties searching for that life. The better life. I left for college with my mind made up that I would not go back to what I came from. That I would live in a big city, that I would find a home in urban sprawl and work in a high rise. It's what I thought I wanted. And 5 months into my college experience I fell in love with a rancher, from a place far more rural and remote than the town I grew up in. And where I would live changed but my plans didn't. I still struggled internally with what I wanted to do.
I loved living in the middle of nowhere. I loved not having neighbors; my internal struggle was how I could live that life and still forge toward working in a high rise. Having the corporate job. Moving away from the one thing I always knew - farming, cattle and agriculture. I didn't think embracing my roots was good enough. I didn't think I was good enough.
It's taken me a while, frankly until my early thirties, to come to the realization that my good enough has always been right here. That the people and places that have given me so much - my family, my education, my work ethic and my values is indeed enough. Agriculture has made me who I am today. Agriculture still makes its mark on me daily, I live on a working ranch. And living in rural South Dakota is right where I should be. Because I know, in my heart, this is place is as cool as downtown in any city. It's culture, values and concerns are as valuable as anywhere else in the nation or world. It's enough.
Don't we all sometimes miss the best parts of something? Whitesnake sings about it, for pete's sake. I feel like rural America and agriculture in general, well we sell ourselves short. A humble people, not keen on shiny multi story buildings or worried with if the neighborhood feels appropriately "planned." We are not trying to be hip, we are trying to make a honest living in an industry that can be brutal. And sometimes amidst all that hard work and the grit, tears and honest to goodness sheer disappointment - we can't find the energy nor gumption to tell our story. Life has sucked it right up, there is not time to tell the story or help people understand. After all, wouldn't anyone with an ounce of wit about them realize what goes on out here? My answer is, no, they wouldn't. I understood what went on in agriculture and I understood what living in a rural town was all about, I grew up with it and I still thought it wasn't what successful people did. Those words, they hurt me to type. Because I see the value now, I understand my purpose. But we have to find a way to make that purpose understood and valued by the greater whole. It is okay to not be the 'cool kid,' but it is not okay to let the story go untold. We need to tell about the best parts. I want my children and our urban counterparts to know what agriculturists do for this country.
The story starts now, the movement has been gaining momentum for awhile. The years of hard work we put into developing a cow herd that is efficient and productive, that's not something that you make happen overnight. The fertile farm ground that gives you high yields year in and year out, that's not something you went online and ordered last week. The story is ours to tell, of patience, faith, determination and hard work. It's a story that can have appeal in a country that is living in the moment and seeking immediate gratification. We have something to offer that shows the other side of the coin. What it is like to live a slower pace, not because we are lesser people, but because we understand the cycle of life, the value of personal growth and the importance of measuring twice and cutting once. Let's show that rural is enough; that agriculture is vital and that living a full life can happen even in the middle of nowhere.