When it comes to weighing the importance to society of specific professions, how they stack up can depend on who you ask. It could also depend on when you ask them.
Someone whose home was just spared from going up in flames by the local fire department is likely to be effusive about the job firefighters do. A crime victim rescued by the intervention of police? They’ll probably have a favorite profession that comes immediately to mind.
Meanwhile, the sacrifices of those who serve in the armed forces are never far from any of our thoughts — and many of us can think back on a teacher who had a positive, lasting impact on our lives.
But really, attempting to rank the importance of professions, especially service professions, is an exercise in futility. Better to just acknowledge there are some people who perform jobs our society can’t function without. We always need them, and it seems we always need more of them.
Sometimes forgotten about are farmers and other people involved in various aspects of the agricultural field. Not a day goes by that our lives aren’t impacted by the people who grow the food we eat — and it’s been that way for centuries.
The modern world we live in was largely made possible by the ability of some people to provide stable, sustainable sources of food for other people. Without that, we’re nomadic foragers of one kind or another.
We need the agricultural professions — they’re part of the glue holding societies together worldwide. Here in southeastern New Mexico, we’re surrounded by constant reminders of their efforts — we see around us every day the work done by agricultural operations large and small. It’s a big part of the local economy and the fabric of life here.
But often when farms and farmers make the news, it’s because of challenges they’re facing. Sometimes, those are the kinds of hurdles that come to mind when many of us think of farm life.
“Every year in farming, there’s something that we’re dealing with,” Margie Hansel, who owns an orchard in Maine, recently told the Associated Press. “It is what it is. It’s part of farming. You expect to have something like this happen every once in a while.”
The “something like this” Hansel was referring to? A huge population of squirrels fattening themselves for the winter by gobbling their way through crops in that part of the country. “It is crazy. You see squirrel tails everywhere,” another grower told the AP.
Stories like that can be told tongue-in-cheek. Not so when it comes to many other topics — farmers in the southwest dealing with drought conditions; the impact on farms of tariffs and other trade practices; bouts of pests and disease that impact their crops; what the latest farm bill does or doesn’t do. The challenges are as wide-ranging and unpredictable as the weather farmers are always watching and always at the mercy of.
So where do the people who do this sort of thing for a living come from? How do they learn the things they need to know? Where do they develop the wherewithal and attitude needed to overcome the obstacles — including disappointment, even heartbreak — that will be placed in their paths?
There are many answers to that, of course. Everyone’s story is different. But programs like 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) are good places to start when it comes to a preview of agriculture’s future generations. The Eastern New Mexico State Fair this past week in Roswell gave many of those young people a chance to display the end results of their hard work.
Those programs teach more than just the ins and outs of farming, which are many. They encourage problem-solving, and also teach organizational and communication skills — they build leaders, and it would appear the future is in good hands.
That’s something we should all be pleased to know. Getting back to where I started this column, considering professions our society can’t do without. We can all ask ourselves: Where would we be without agriculture?
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.