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The House That Built Me

A few weeks ago, I shared a post online that went viral and resulted in an onslaught of trolls flagging my account for “hate speech” while hackers tried relentlessly to break into my pages on Facebook and Instagram. 

Their vitriol spread to my family members, and to date, my sister is still unable to access her Facebook accounts.

All because someone disagreed with my political views and my ideas for a brighter future for agriculture and America.

While I was locked out of my accounts for the week, waiting for the appeal to restore my pages, I dealt with my frustration by pouring my energy into our family’s farm and ranch. 

I welcomed the opportunity to unplug and disconnect from the outside world, and I immersed myself in the things I love — working alongside my family, raising my children, and tending to our livestock. 

And even though it felt weird and unjust to be ripped off the internet without my consent, I was reminded that our presence on social media isn’t even close to the real world.

In the real world, we spent the week knocking down our old house — the one I grew up in and the house my dad was raised in. 

Left empty since I was a teenager, the old house had become home to raccoons, as abandoned buildings tend to do. It was long-past time to close the chapter on this old building and make room for new ideas to grow and blossom.

Yet, as we watched the bulldozer knock down our family’s home, one room at a time, I found myself deeply saddened. With each swing, a lifetime of memories crumbled into a pile, and I wondered, is there something bigger being lost in the rubble than just wood, shingles, bricks, and nails?

Our nation’s history is full of stories of pioneer families settling on land and making a place to call their own. Full of hopes, these families pursued the American dream, and worked tirelessly to break the land, build a home, raise their kids, and shape the community around them.

Today, there are still agricultural families who are seeking that same dream, yet the pathway to entry is riddled with blockades; the risks are high; the capital investment is through the roof; and I’m seeing fewer and fewer young people enter into production agricultural careers.

There are many reasons for this, of course, but it saddens me to know there will be less people involved in this beautiful lifestyle we love.

Recently, at a Perdue University Game, the band thanked the 1% of those involved in production agriculture for feeding 100% of the people. At first blush, this is an amazing success story at our increased efficiencies, thanks to technological advancements in food science, safety, production, and utilizing our natural resources responsibly.

However, a deeper reflection to ponder might wonder if our nation’s food system might be less vulnerable, more diverse, and better equipped to feed communities and serve people in need.

The COVID-19 pandemic proves my point. Supply chain disruptions and just-in-time delivery systems left many shoppers without. Bare shelves, unpredictable shipping dates, production challenges, and shortages showed us that we are not “too big to fail.”

I guess what I’m saying is two-fold. First, I feel grateful that our nation can produce more food, fiber, and energy using fewer resources in order to meet the needs of a growing global population. However, I also see the benefits of a more diverse, niche-based production agricultural system — one that truly supports local communities, keeping dollars in remote rural areas, and providing opportunities for young families to raise their kids on the land.

Is that American dream dead? I sure hope not, but producers will need to seek alternatives to achieve profitability in a system that rewards the big guys and leaves everyone else struggling. 

As I watched the house that built me fall to the ground, I stood resolved to ensure the lessons I learned in that home on our family ranch are not lost to the next generation. It is my sincere hope that my children and grandchildren will have the chance to make a living in this agricultural industry we all love.

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