“The past doesn’t buy the future. The future has to be built.”
By Susan Crowell / email@example.com
I’ve been writing this column for four months, and still our new Managing Editor Aimee Tenzek is sending me veiled threats that she can’t wait any longer. And so here is my last column as editor of Farm and Dairy.
I’m wrapping up 30 years with that title and a total of 34 years with the paper, and it’s been a great ride.
Here’s what I’ve tried to do the past 34 years: Tell and share stories about the success and progress of agriculture and rural life; bring new ideas to the countryside; and foster the appreciation of farming as a way of life, yes, but also as an economic driver.
In my role as gatekeeper, my goal has been to help people, to educate and inform them, and sometimes entertain. I’ve tried to be a coach, not a cheerleader — caring, yet pushing; encouraging, yet challenging. Sometimes that included telling you things you didn’t want to hear, or publishing a less-popular viewpoint. It’s been my job to make you think and to learn — not to coast.
My over-arching goal has been to provide reliable, informed news coverage you can trust. Our reward is getting it right.
The best memories have been on your farms, in your barns or around your kitchen tables. My favorite times during all those interviews are the moments I finally ask the right question and your eyes light up, you lean in, and your passion shines. That’s the story I try to tell.
I never tire of learning what inspires a farmer, what makes you tick and what keeps you going. That quiet passion motivated me to do my best, too.
A reader called last week to thank me for my work, and as we talked, he said, “I’m just a farmer.” I might’ve bitten his head off.
You all are so much more than “just a farmer,” so please don’t ever say (or think) that you’re somehow inferior or that your job is less important than others. To quote the book and movie The Help: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Never forget that.
Some of you, in my early years, tucked me under your wing like a daughter or niece (like the time I locked my keys in my car at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds after a farm safety event, and the late Joe Shick, Extension ag agent, patiently waited with me for my husband to make the hour drive with another set of keys).
And from the beginning, retired Mahoning County Extension Agent Bill Phillips has been my behind-the-scenes support system, believing in me when I didn’t quite believe in myself.
To Farm and Dairy owners Tom and Scot Darling: This is a good thing you’ve got going. Soldier on.
To my daughter Annette and son Jon: You discovered before you could talk or walk that I wasn’t a regular mom. I can’t sew and don’t really cook. My work hours weren’t regular and sometimes I dragged you along on assignments or into the office on weekends. (Pretty sure neither one of you has any fingerprints left after playing with the hot, melted wax in the composition department.)
I also pounded apostrophes into your head, so there’s that, too.
Finally, to my husband Keith: I never understood what you did at work and I’m pretty sure you had no clue what I did either. Still, we made it work.
Most of the people who know me through Farm and Dairy have never met you. But even though you’ve been out of the public’s eye during my career, you’ve always been in the background, lending your unwavering support, occasional safety tip and always-grounded counsel. I’ve been able to devote so much to this job because of your love and steadfastness.
To everyone, I leave you with a recent quote from Julia Keller, a Pulitzer Prize winner for feature writing, who sums up what I believe — and what I hope for the industry of journalism and its importance to agriculture:
“The will to know — to understand, to analyze, to comprehend, to discover — always, in the end, beats ignorance and complacency.”
(Susan Crowell will probably never put down her pen. You can reach her through the current editorial staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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