No. 1030



When it comes to our nation’s economy and our role in the world, there is a group of people who are vital to our success for a number of reasons. We call these people “farmers,” and they produce the foodstuffs we eat, and also provide jobs and a way of life for a good number of people.
Because of a number of factors, over the past few decades their numbers have dwindled. There was a day when more than 95 percent of all Americans lived on a farm. Today, because of mechanization and other factors, that number is less than 1 percent.
There is a funny story that has circulated about this over the years that perhaps you have heard. The story goes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Farm Bureau have a gentlemen’s agreement that there can be no more government agents than we have farmers. One day a U.S. Department of Agriculture agent was walking down the halls of Congress, and he was weeping uncontrollably. When someone asked him why he was crying, he said, “My farmer died.” To be sure, farmers are very important people and we should each pause from time to time to realize just what they do for the rest of us.
What brought these thoughts to mind was a copy of the Wynne Progress, a weekly newspaper that has now run my column for almost 20 years. Wynne is a farming community in East Arkansas, very progressive, with a lot of pride and community spirit. This paper is kind enough to send me a copy of the paper each week so I am able to keep up with what is taking place there. They started a Bookcase for Every Child project about four years ago and it continues to this day. I am very proud of them.
Each year they produce a special edition where they honor the county “Farm Family of the Year.” Each county winner then competes in the state competition to be named the “Arkansas Farm Family of the Year.” The paper includes a special section where local businesses take out large ads of congratulations, and there are stories and photos of the family members that gives a great overview of the farm operation, what they produce, and the background and history of their operation.
After reading some of the articles, I decided to do a little research about this important project and to make many of you more aware of why farmers are important to all of us. This program started here in Arkansas in 1947 with the following objectives: first, to recognize and encourage farm families who are doing an outstanding job in farming, homemaking, and community leadership; second, to highlight the importance of agriculture to the economy of the community and the state; and third, to disseminate information on improved farm practices and effective farm and home management. This is really “back to our roots.” After the county selection process is complete, a committee then selects district winners, leading up to the selection of the overall state winner.
It should be noted that this is not meant to be a competition but rather a recognition program. Quite naturally, in a project of such major importance, state officials get involved, including our governor. The announcement is usually made the first or second Friday in December, which is Arkansas Farm Family Day. Ross Mauney, former employee of Arkansas Power and Light (now Entergy), is given credit for starting the program. Also, one of the sponsors is the Arkansas Press Association, an organization of which I am proud to be a member.
This program is now being carried out in 10 other states, as we honor those who feed us. Why not say “thank you” to some farmers you know for doing a good job.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY – Begin your day on a positive note – 365 days for $12. This will benefit the Bookcase for Every Child project. Go to to subscribe.)