Part of the VALOR program focus is leading the Fellows on a journey of discovery. Not only discovery of what agriculture is throughout the various areas in Virginia, but also a journey of personal discovery. What is it that drives you? Why do you do what you do how you do it? What does the future look like in your mind when you close your eyes? How are you going to get there?
Frankly, these are questions that I just had not pondered in any depth, and would not be even now were it not for my involvement in the program. It sometimes seems that my normal day has 26 hours worth of tasks that need to get done in the 24 available, and “soul searching” is normally around number 18 on the to-do list, and that’s fine.
This week is National FFA Week, and I chanced across some text that I had not thought much about since the mid-80’s when I had to speak it in front of some judges. (The results of the contest are lost to me now.) Of course the first bit has played through my head many, many times in the intervening years:
I believe in the future of farming, with a faith born not of words but of deeds
It was “farming” then, today “agriculture” has replaced it, and I am OK with that.
Over and over I have heard those words replayed in my head: “I believe! Not words; deeds!” Or, often it is “deeds, dammit!” at the end… Is this the phrase that serve as my mission statement? I don’t know, but it would have been nice to say so during my selection interview for the VALOR program… Would have been better than whatever I stumbled and stammered over anyway…But, I digress…
But today, I read the full text again for the first time in 20 odd years:
I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.
I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.
I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others. I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.
I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so–for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.
I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.
I can’t think of anything I have ever read that I could not take issue with at least one section or phrase of the text. Even in the things that I write, there is normally something there that, upon further review, I would tweak or change.
But not this.
Erwin Milton Tiffany hit it dead on.
Happy FFA Week.