WASHINGTON — One of the highlights for many Ohio Farm Bureau leaders, who traveled to D.C. March 13-15, was a surprise visit from American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall.
(Duvall was elected in January of 2016, during the AFBF annual convention.)
He gave a speech that showed a lot of optimism for the future of agriculture under the new administration. He said he personally knows the nominee for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and said “he is a good man.”
But it was a personal story that Duvall shared with Farm Bureau members in the room that revealed a lot about his character. He reflected on re-engaging with his own spirituality and finding time to break away from the busy farm life and reconnect with a neighbor in need.
A neighbor in need
The neighbor had a son who was born with spina bifida. For months, Duvall had neglected to visit with his neighbor because there was just so much work to be done on the farm.
One day — after Duvall got word that the young boy was not doing so well — he had been doing his daily chores, but everything seemed to be going wrong that morning. When he came into the house that afternoon, he decided the evening chores could wait. He was going to visit his neighbor.
When he arrived, paramedics and family were all gathered around the young boy as he struggled to breathe. Duvall just sat on the couch — “nobody knew I was there, but it wasn’t about me.”
When the young boy’s breathing was restored, the boy’s father turned to see Duvall sitting on the couch. He simply looked at Duvall and asked that they go somewhere. So they went out to the fields and picked up hay bales, “because it was what he wanted to do.”
As they were out in the field, the boy’s father turned to Duvall and said, “I’m losing my faith.” These were powerful words to Duvall, who had himself been neglecting his faith because farm life was just too busy.
Something in the way his friend spoke those words to him and the way he showed his gratitude for a friend and neighbor being there that day for him, really hit home for Duvall.
The young boy died not long after that visit, at the young age of 15. But from that day on, Duvall worked to find time to break away from his chores and be a better neighbor and restore his own faith in God.
He used this story to encourage Ohio Farm Bureau members to re-engage with their legislators to make sure their voice is heard. “If we disengage from this country, we will lose it,” he said. “If you don’t answer the call — nothing is going to happen.”
U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan echoed those sentiments in his own speech to Ohio Farm Bureau members the next day. “…if you are not here sharing your concerns, sharing your stories, they’re not heard.”