I write to you on this bitter January day, wherein such bitterness is not the day’s, but my own. You see, what should be a cold winter morning is instead a fraught (not frosted) warm-weather …
I write to you on this bitter January day, wherein such bitterness is not the day’s, but my own. You see, what should be a cold winter morning is instead a fraught (not frosted) warm-weather scourge. I have plowed my land for soybeans and sweet corn for years and years and years, and not once has the crop ever refused to germinate. There have been harvests with less yield or less sweetness in my corn. I expect those challenges. In fact, I like a good challenge if it makes me a better problem solver. Today, not so. I am not better. I am bitter.
I saw what bitterness wrought (rot?) at our nation’s capital. I saw some Pennsylvanians in that mob, but I did not see problem solvers. I do not care who sits in what chair or how big the aisle between parties may be. Heck, I don’t even care who gets to bang the gavel. It makes the same sound regardless of who wields it. The FFA and 4-H grants will still be available and my tax exemptions help with Mom’s monthly melanoma screen. But thinking on those loose cannons, with their no-plan-in-sight approach, now I see how my seemingly trivial benefits connect to a seemingly distant decorum and process. The truth is that gavel represents a commitment to problem-solving, which occasionally gives us a little boost.
As I said before, I enjoy challenges. I like solving the problems in front of me—here, on my farm. I’m not so good at solving the bigger problems, though. I didn’t even believe some of them existed. I didn’t believe fracking would make us relocate our entire well water pump system; we had to raise local taxes to pay for it. I didn’t believe invasive species were harmful until they took over my backyard. Now, I spend many of my Sunday afternoons yanking down wild grapevines and pulling Japanese knotweed from my wife’s garden. That’s not how I want to spend my family time! I didn’t believe in this virus until it killed Mr. Peterson who lived four houses down. I didn’t believe in global warming until my crop yield declined. It’s real and it’s not spectacular.
I admit I wasn’t much of a believer in gavel-bangers until I saw what I saw on January 6.
This is Pennsylvania. It’s 2021. We need more than just tax credits and disaster readiness programs to keep raising our crops consistently, but we also need gavel-bangers to help us ensure those old services and some new ones. If we tear down that process in Washington, who’s to say it wouldn’t get torn down here?
I have another admission. I’m not who I say I am. I am not a farmer like you. I do not know corn or soybeans. I do not know dairy cows, but I know my supermarket shelves. I know how many hands have traded to put food on my wife’s table. I know that quality produce travels better and lasts longer, and that’s good for business on both ends. In my heart of hearts, I also know nothing will ever, ever beat local strawberries. Farmers keep those shelves stocked for all of us.
I teach middle school science in New York City and I connect with students through my upbeat, goofy sense of humor, but I’m not laughing when it comes to the imbalances I see across this country. I see us tilted too far from your ageless, persistent craft, which deserves more appreciation from our coastal citizens. So now that you know who I am, who are you?
You are my brother, two farms over. You are my grandfather, two generations back. You are the guy who got in their Chevy two minutes before that other guy on line and purchased the last set of replacement choppers for their S700 Series. First come, first served—oldest rule in a capitalist society. But you know how that other guy feels, too.
We really aren’t that different. In New York, we have tilted away from family businesses. We navigate similar challenges with the same short-sighted, reckless solutions, and the silly irony is that our respective gavel-bangers talk more often than we do. Remember, those conversations are ours to shape. Aimless violence and tacky costumes won’t solve problems or receive dedicated support.
Who are we? I’m not sure anymore. We could be harbingers of food scarcity, but we could also be the most important voices of our generation. That depends on who cares.
Noah Kaminsky is a middle school science teacher and a youth sports coach. He is not a farmer, but he plays one in the first half of this article.