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What is farming?

By Staff | May 9, 2013

Many people are familiar with the story about the six blind men and the elephant.

An elephant wandered into a village and as the blind men had never “seen” an elephant, each touched a different part of the elephant and tried to describe it.

The man touching the leg said, “It is a pillar.”

The man who touched the tail said, “Oh, no, it is like a rope.”

The man holding the trunk said, “No, it is like a thick branch of a tree.”

“It is like a big hand fan” said the man touching the ear of the elephant.

The man who was touching the belly of the elephant said, “It is like a huge wall.”

“It is like a solid pipe,” said the man was touching the tusk of the elephant.

The men began to argue about who was right when a wise man heard them arguing.

He asked what the argument was all about and told them because each was holding a different part of the elephant, they were all right.

The men agreed with the wise man and there was no more arguing.

The point of the story is that it takes several viewpoints to tell the whole story.

That is how it is with farming. I live in corn and soybean country. To me, a farmer grows corn and soybeans.

I have driven through wheat country in the western U.S. Several years ago, my wife and I stayed at a motel in Glasgow, Mont., where our room overlooked a lot filled with red combines.

There were no corn and soybeans nearby, but there was no doubt I was in farm country.

I have seen fields of sunflowers in the Dakotas and irrigated hayfields in Utah, all in farm country.

I have seen 400 horsepower tractors and combines with 40-foot heads and yet within a few miles of these was Amish farmers with horses using horse-drawn equipment, all farmers in farm country.

The phrase family farms is heard frequently. I like to think of the farming family; the growers of everything agricultural from cotton to beef cattle, from fruit and vegetables to sugar, and of course, my personal favorite; corn and soybeans.

As in any family there can be squabbles among the family members. For every corn grower trying to get a high price, there is a livestock producer wanting corn at a low price.

Like the blind men and the elephant, it is important to remember no one is more knowing, important or deserving than anyone else.

My corn and soybeans have value because the livestock producers want to buy them.

So whether it is organic versus bulk commodity agriculture, hogs versus cattle, corn versus wheat, large producers versus medium and small operations, and all the other competition that exists in farming, remember it is friendly competition and in general, competition improves most everything.

One more thing that was not said in the story above, but must be true.

I believe that the wise man must have been a writer for a farm newspaper (wink, wink).

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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