Inspired by our nation’s foundation

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In many ways, agriculture ranks among the most crucial of our nation’s industries; and yet, its reliability and productivity are often taken for granted. President George W. Bush, September 2001

In a recent conversation with Medina County Farm Bureau member Stuart Neal, Medina County Commissioner Patricia Geissman voiced why she recognizes agriculture’s importance to that county.

Even in Medina County – which is bulging with urban sprawl pressures from Cuyahoga County to the north, Lorain County to the west and Summit County to the east – this elected official acknowledges farming’s value. Simply put, Geissman said, agriculture is still the biggest industry in Medina County – it adds money to the county coffers.

Oh, how I wish more public servants – bureaucrats and politicians alike – shared her awareness.

Agriculture is a huge mosaic of individuals, payrolls, land ownership, buildings, equipment, allied service networks, even farm newspapers. It is, all too often, a politically hidden community, ignored for its economic impacts.

Even in our rural home of Columbiana County, agriculture is not viewed as an economically vibrant player, even though the county ranks third in the state in terms of hay production, sixth in the state in number of milk cows and 10th in the number of cattle and calves.

Across Ohio, Pennsylvania and many other states, thousands and thousands of small and independent farm owners are like glue, holding communities together economically. Only when that mortar starts to crumble, do communities start to look at what’s left of that foundation and wonder what can be done to shore it up.

This week, I was struck by words written by Jack Faris, president of the National Federation of Independent Business. Although we are a nation at war and constant reminders of economic recession face us at every turn, Faris writes that “small business owners… are engaged in something much greater than running a business.

“They are strengthening the engine of the small business movement that has enabled the United States to become the beacon of freedom and opportunity it is today. Without them, without the contributions of their forebears, the foundations of this nation would not be strong.”

Large or small, farms also power the engine of the U.S. economy, yet we continue to wait for leaders at all levels to recognize that contribution.

This is a season of hope and renewal. Hope for peace. Hope for health. Hope for happiness. And renewal of the independent spirit that built this country. May it continue to shine on farms all across this country.

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