I remember having to write an answer to this essay question in my high school English course. We were asked if we would rather be a second-rate artist or be known for making a first-rate soup. While most would like to be very good at the most challenging of tasks, we all have our limitations of where our strengths lie. While my best artwork came from the two-foot tall Holstein cow I painted in first grade, I knew then that painting was not to be in my future. So, that left making soup. Anyone who has spent 10 minutes with me knows that my cooking lags far behind my artistic skills. I was not a big fan of the question – to be average at something with more perceived prestige or really good at a less well-appreciated task. I wanted to choose neither but chose the first-rate soup. I wanted to do the task well, not be ordinary.
We may feel that we are at this crossroads at times. We, as American farmers, are well-known for producing food for a hungry planet. Yet, we're often recognized as "just a farmer." Well, you're not just a farmer. We've embraced technology and have made leaps and bounds that other industries have not.
You are very good at producing food for a hungry world through production agriculture, but the respect and appreciation you receive for your total commitment to your career can sometimes fall short. Your ability to develop your herd of dairy cattle that outperforms generations before them has been carefully orchestrated. But, who notices? The rest of us do.
You have chosen one of the most physically challenging careers, yet one with so many variables and no guarantees. So, while many may think that anybody can operate a farm enterprise, it is more than adding a few ingredients (cows, corn, and a tractor) to a piece of land and stirring. Be proud to do what you do. Many hats are worn each day to see that your operation is a success. While farming may not have the prestige of a world-renowned artist, your first-rate soup feeds the world.