“Where are you from?” the young lady sitting next to me on the train said in a thick German accent. “The United States,” I replied. “Ooo, I’ve always wanted to go there,” she beamed. “I want to attend college there, travel and work. Where do you live? What’s it like?”
She peppered me with question after question, and I was barely able to reply. It wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered random people while abroad who want to talk about what it is like in America. And I’ve concluded many people in other countries want to be, well, us.
With my job, I’ve traveled to Brazil twice, England once, the Netherlands and Germany — all in a span of seven years. And with every trip, I meet people clamoring to know more about our country, our freedoms and our lifestyle. But what I think truly draws them to our great nation is our blessings.
This is not a political or religious piece. No, it is the simple fact that unless you’ve traveled outside of our borders, you have no idea how blessed we are, especially those of us who live in the nation’s heartland.
Safety on the farm
“We have steel doors that come down on the first floor once we’ve retired to the second [floor] for the evening,” a fellow journalist from Johannesburg explained. But she wasn’t talking about living in the city. It was her family farm in the rural area.
We were both in Brazil, and she shared about what it was like in South Africa. Her family had fences around the farmstead with electrified barbed wire on the top. Inside their home was a security system that locked them in — locked them in — while they were sleeping on the second floor at night. “We always run the risk of intrusion,” she said.
I’m sure the look on my face was horrified. I couldn’t imagine it because I live where if I forget to lock the door at night, I still sleep soundly. Most of the time, to the chagrin of my insurance agent, my doors are left unlocked. The thought of steel doors descending to cut off the upstairs from would-be intruders is inconceivable. But it happens in the world. I’m blessed to feel safe on my farm and in my home.
Freedom for children
“They have three paths — university, military or apprenticeship,” a driver for a British farm equipment company explained. “My son chose apprenticeship. Really, they tested him. He was directed where to go.”
This was not an 18-year-old young man. No, this was a boy who had his life’s path chosen at 16. Shoot, my girls struggled to pick out the right prom dress at 16.
Honestly, at that age, kids are starting to home in on their gifts, talents and career options. And rural America gives them every opportunity through successes and failures to find their life’s passion. I’m blessed to live in a place that allows kids time to grow and develop with their life not dictated by anything other than their work ethic and choice.
The future is here
Then there was Patience Koke, a first-generation farmer from Nigeria. She plants 500 hectares of corn that produces only 2 metric tons per hectare. Translation: That is about 32 bushels per acre. Missouri's average corn yield is 140 bushels per acre, according to USDA, but most farmers are pushing well into the 200s.
Weeds and pests invade her farm, so she relies on chemicals for control. “Where you are [in terms of agriculture production] is where I want to be,” she said. “Someone else’s present is my future.”
How quickly we forget that American agriculture is leading the world in practical innovation in our farm fields. Despite the wild swings in the weather, on average, we have growing conditions and technology that allows us to yield a good crop in a crappy year. Others around the world are not so fortunate. Sure, some have more government support, but most I talk with would take the free market any day. Why?
America’s farmers have the freedom to choose the crops they plant, the market they sell into, the crop chemicals they may or may not want — and like it or not, most of us have the resources to reduce risk through insurance.
I consider it a blessing to live in a nation that is leading the future of food production for the world.
All eyes are on you
Trust me, I know it has been a tough year. It seems as though farmers are being hit with a trade deal, a market price drop and a weather event one after the other. No. All at once.
But if there is one thing I know after all my travels, it is that the world looks at how America handles adversity. And based on my interactions, they still see a fight, a resilience, a hope, and dare I say, a blessing in you. You have what many want — productivity, safety and choice.
So, give thanks, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day for being an American farmer because others are watching and wanting to be like you.