I think most people think of Thanksgiving as the holiday for gratitude but, for me, Thanksgiving is just the start of a season of reflection and gratitude.
The settling in of winter is a time for outdoor farm work to slow down — except for continual livestock care — and an opportunity to spend a little less time hustling through long days and quick meals on the run. It is a time for catching up with family, seeing friends at conferences, planning for the year to come and considering the year that has just wrapped up.
This year was full of struggles for the agricultural community. Pushing through concerns about a bill to expand riparian buffers in rural areas that would have taken productive land used to feed our friends and neighbors out of commission. The first year of implementation of the state’s new agricultural overtime rules. An overall increase in grocery costs that did not necessarily translate into higher farm income for food producers on the West Coast. A loss of precious cattle to increased conflicts with our gray wolf population.
But … for all those struggles, our farmers and ranchers continue to do what they love: caring for their livestock in blazing summer temperatures and bitter winter winds; putting a small seed in the soil, providing it with water and fertilizer and nurturing it into food to nourish us all.
And there were some moments of hope this year. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for not one but two landmark cases that could significantly change the agricultural landscape for the better if the chips fall in the favor of food producers. First, the justices listened to concerns from the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation about the implementation of California’s Prop 12 – a law that would require all pork producers across the country to change how they house and raise their hogs just in case the meat finds its way to the Sunshine State. The same week, SCOTUS heard the case of Sackett v. EPA which has the potential to solidify the Waters of the U.S. rule into policy that does not change based upon the ideals of the person sitting in the Oval Office.
Winter is our opportunity to learn from the year and plan for the next farming year. When I look at the policy struggles and hopes of 2022, I see the opportunity to open the door to conversation with the 99 percent of the population that does not produce food. We in the agricultural community have the chance to better tell our stories, to let people into the beauty and ugliness that walk hand-in-hand in our everyday lives.
We can share the terror of losing land that has been cared for by our families for generations; loved so carefully that it has remained productive for generations. We can ask our employees to share their thoughts about shift changes and pay adjustments. We can explain why a grocery price mark-up does not always make it to our bank accounts. We can show our sadness when a loss of life from a predator attack is discovered.
This year has been one in which I have been shaped by the words of a poem that is more than 100 years old entitled The Farmers Creed. The language is befitting of its age, but the words are just as true today as when they were allegedly written in 1915.
As we shift our focus toward family, friends, and the celebration of the winter holidays and the beginning of a new year, I find myself grateful to be a food producer, an agricultural advocate, and a person with her roots deeply planted in our fine Washington state soil.
It is my sincerest hope that every Washingtonian has a holiday season filled with the warmth and wonder only this time of year can bring. It is also my wish for 2023 to dawn on our state with a newly inspired love of the land and agriculture.
“I believe hard work and honest sweat are the building blocks of a person’s character. I believe that farming, despite its hardships and disappointments, is the most honest and honorable way a man can spend his days on earth. … I believe that by my toil I am giving more to the world than I am taking from it, an honor that does not come to all men. I believe my life will be measured ultimately by what I have done for my fellow man, and by this standard I fear no judgment. … I believe in farming because it makes all this possible!” – Attributed to Frank Mann, 1915
Pam Lewison is the director of the Initiative on Agriculture at the Washington Policy Center.
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