Karen Bohnert

Seeing Joe Burrow get selected as the first pick of the 2020 National Football League (NFL) Draft made me cry. I think my kids were either annoyed, scared, or wondering what the heck happened to their mom. Total disclaimer — I did not even know who Joe Burrow was before the NFL Draft happened, but once I listened to him speak and learned of his story, I teared up.

Both my sons, Tyler, 16, and Jacob, 10, can tell you Burrow’s stats and background. He’s an amazing quarterback from Louisiana State University (LSU) who was picked to go No. 1 in the draft. I, on the other hand, was clueless about any of the players who were even slated to be drafted. However, for a chance to bond with my boys, I decided to watch with them.

My kids sat there quietly, wondering why their mom was crying. Through tears I told them that what drew me to Burrow wasn’t his athletic ability, as incredible as it is. It was his “from-the-heart” NFL Draft speech that struck a chord with me.

My father grew up extremely poor. I’ve told my kids stories of Grandpa Bob and his sister going without food growing up, and now that we are living in a pandemic, food scarcity is a topic that our household often talks about. Want not, waste not; the kids have really not complained about what’s for dinner during this pandemic because they have listened to their mother tell them that many people have little to nothing to eat tonight. Every week, as we go pick up school lunches, they are reminded that some kids only have what the schools and local food pantries are handing out.

So, yes, the quarterback kid from Athens High School in Ohio made me cry when he talked about food insecurity. At the young age of 23, Joe Burrow understands that he is one of the lucky ones. Not because he went onto LSU to play football or now is drafted to play football in the NFL. Like most of us, Burrow feels he is one of the fortunate ones, simply because he has food on his table. Something that many in his community, and around the world, don’t have.

Perspective is everything, my friends. It will make us appreciate the simplest of things we have. Without a good set of lenses to see the good in our own lives, it is really difficult to have that deep sense of appreciation.

The world will always need farmers to help feed those who cannot feed themselves. When I get so consumed about shrinking milk prices and all that is going wrong with the world, I have to smile wide at all that is going right. The USDA passed a bill to put billions of dollars into food banks, to help feed those many mouths that otherwise would go without meals. I applaud the many dairy companies who are donating gallons of milk to their local food banks during this coronavirus pandemic.

And, earlier in the day, I smiled big when I reminded our employees of the local food banks, telling them about their locations, hours, and dates. One of our employees told me his fridge was full for the week, so he wasn’t going to the food pantry to make sure there was plenty for others who really needed it. That employee’s wife is currently not working and they are trying to get by on one paycheck to feed his family.

From my viewpoint, this is how we build a better community, and quite honestly, a better world. If we look out for one another and are mindful that there is always someone else worse off than we are, we won’t get so consumed in focusing on what we don’t have and will focus on being grateful for what we do have.

There is so much that makes me proud to have grown up on a dairy farm, to be married to a dairy farmer, and to raise our kids on a family dairy farm. I’m super proud of the role American dairy farmers play in helping feed the world, especially now.

When I explained all of this to my children, they, too, were a little teary eyed. I say when you have a chance to do good in this world, then do good. Joe Burrow had an amazing platform to tell any story, but to tell a story that was so close and personal to his heart and really to the world right now, was wonderful.

I was fortunate to meet the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, last fall, when he sat down with a handful of dairy farmers and community leaders to talk about NFL’s Huddle for 100 program in Chicago. So, when the NFL draft kicked off, I told the kids, “Hey, there is my buddy, Roger!” The kids weren’t amused at my comment, but after watching Joe Burrow’s story and talking with my kids, who have gained maturity over the last few months, they, too, thought the No. 1 draft pick’s platform was “super cool.”

COVID-19 has surfaced a lot of lessons, but one that is resonating with many is the crucial role America’s farmers play to help feed the world.

Around the Kitchen Table is a regular column in Hoard's Dairyman. The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 500-cow dairy in East Moline, Ill.