Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ag Day at the Depot 2011

Let me begin by posing a question to you: What does agriculture mean to YOU?

Today my father, Johnny Jones, and I traveled from Lyons to Atlanta. The purpose was to be a part of Ag Awareness. We heard Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and Governor Nathan Deal speak. I met Mr. Black and several others, including the current FFA state president, Spencer Highsmith. He is a pleasant young man from Coffee County. I was also reacquainted with friends I've not seen in quite some time. Many I hadn't seen since I've been married.

I was able to have short visits with Terry England, Chip Bridges, Ben Lastly, and Blane Marable. All these people I met through the FFA Alumni. I was also able to chat with Sonny Turner (Walton County EMC). He was really a mentor to Daddy when he first became active in the Alumni. I don't mean to name drop, but Mr. Terry is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in Georgia. Chip and Ben are high up on the FFA food chain, and Blane (who is retiring soon) was instrumental in our forming an Alumni chapter in Toombs County. Mr. Terry gave me a big ol' bear hug when he saw me. Chip also hugged me. We're like a big family. It doesn't matter where we go (Maryland) or what we do (stay gone for two years). We welcome each other eagerly and with open arms.

I learned something today of great value. Georgia is one of the few states with a double-sided seal. The side that we see most often (the only side I've ever seen) is actually the backside. Yes, we all know Wisdom, Justice, Moderation. (I could totally go off on a tangent with "moderation" but I won't.) The frontside of the coin represents Georgia's biggest business, if you will. It is agriculture. It's what our state is based on. It's our industry. Think about it. I can't begin to name all the farmers I know. And even though I'm from Toombs County where the Vidalia sweet onion was first grown, not all my farmer friends grow onions. And did you know that Georgia was also the first state to form a department of agriculture?

Governor Deal spoke about his own experience with agriculture. He encouraged us to think about our first experiences as well. I remember when I was a little girl, before Jessica and John were born, us having hogs. One morning Daddy took me with him to the farrowing house. A sow had had a litter of pigs during the night. It was amazing to see all those little babies! Governor Deal made a good point that our beginnings with livestock give us an appreciation for life. Not only that of the animals, but also our fellow humans.

After the shin-dig at the Depot ended we walked to the Capitol. I'd never been in the building before. We sat down in the President Pro Tem's office. He actually briefly left the session and talked with us there. His name is Tommie Williams. We are from the same city. It's nice to be from a place like Cheers. Well, Toombs County is hardly a bar with Rhea Pearlman as a waitress, but everybody knows your name.

I get tickled whenever we go off. So many people don't realize that my parents have two girls. They either see Jessica or myself, but rarely the two of us together. Oh, the puzzled looks I received today! What's more fun is for J and me to be together. The one year we went to National Convention was so much fun! What's even better is when we dress alike. Or fix our hair the same way. I don't see where we favor, but even our grandaddy gets us mixed up sometimes! In that same vein, Chip asked Daddy today how he gets such pretty girls to hang around with him. Daddy thought a minute, got that mischievous grin on his face, and quipped, "I raised them!". I thought that was pretty clever.

It was an honor to be able to be with my daddy today. He has so much to be cocky about, and yet he is one of the most humble people I know. Quickly I'll run over his accomplishments. He is a Christian. He served 4 years in the National Guard and 5 in the Navy. He and my mother raised three children while running a successful business. He was the charter president of the Toombs County FFA Alumni. He is currently serving as the Georgia FFA Alumni president, and is the Southern Region Representative on the National FFA Alumni Council. Daddy was Lyons, Georgia's 2009 Citizen of the Year. In 2010, he graduated from the Georgia Agri-Leaders Forum. With the agri-leaders he had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. Jon, my husband, and I were living just outside Annapolis (which is about 45 minutes away from D.C.) when Mr. Jimmy Hill and his crew came to visit. I had the honor of seeing my father lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Talk about a moving experience! I am so thankful to have him. I hope that my children will hold me in as high regard as I hold my own parents.

Now that I've rambled, and scrambled your train of thought let's go back to our original question. What does agriculture mean to you?

Does it mean farmers in overalls? Does it mean tractors? How about "rednecks" and "hicks"?

To me it means survival. Think about it. Do you like to be fed? I do. Do you like to have clothes? I do. What about a home? Do you like having a roof over your head? I do.

We have to have farmers to grow crops and raise animals for our food. We have to have farmers to grow cotton and shear sheep. We have to have people to cut timber. (Yup, that's part of agriculture.)

And for those of you who argue that football is more important in terms of revenue, what if there wasn't a farmer to grow the sod to go on the football field? It wouldn't look that pretty if somebody wasn't concerned about getting it fertilized and watered. Know who did that? A farmer!

Think about the agriculture in your neck of the woods. Is it crops? Animals? Timber? Sod? Fruit?

Next time you sit down to eat or get dressed to go out, think about the people who helped you do that. The people in the world of agriculture.