A final thought: Looking back on 20 years at Ohio Farm Bureau

Before now the only significance the number 84 has held is it’s where I get my framing lumber. But I did some counting and 84 also happens to be the number of this, my final column, in Our Ohio.

Since announcing my retirement a couple months back there’s been little time for thumb twiddling. My tenure may be winding down but the organization’s work, and my enthusiasm for it, hasn’t waned. But I have taken a bit of time to think back over 20 years in this chair, and in particular, what I’ve tried to accomplish on this page.
My goal hasn’t been to tell you what to think, but rather to suggest some things worth thinking about. Things that in our busy daily lives may seem unimportant or irrelevant but in fact hold great sway over our happiness and prosperity. I’ve also hoped to spur your involvement, to encourage you to exert influence on the things that matter to you. And I’ve always tried to show that Farm Bureau is here to help you engage in both thoughtful discussion and meaningful action.

I’ve written about some common themes: jobs and the economy, government and politics, energy, the environment and animals. In recent years I’ve been focused on two concepts: “food security” and “permission to farm.” Food security to me means that everyone, whether across the street or across the globe, never lacks for food. Permission to farm is my shorthand for saying that in Ohio, where nonfarmers outnumber farmers by more than 60 to 1, agriculture’s fate depends largely on public opinion. With my final turn on the soapbox, I’d like to prompt some thought about the intersection of public opinion and food security.

In today’s world, permission to farm must be earned. Society expects food that is safe, nutritious and affordable. It wants farmers to protect the environment and to be responsive to concerns over technology, animal care and transparency. And it will make choices, on what to buy and how to vote, based on its comfort with all of the above. I’m OK with that because agriculture is worthy of approval. My farm knowledge doesn’t come from bloggers and book writers. I live in the farm community and I see every day just how well those expectations are being met. And I’m convinced that when Ohioans take their own close-up look, they’ll see it, too.

What happens when permission to farm is granted? Ohio’s family farmers thrive, preserve their heritage, create jobs and contribute to their communities. Universities, businesses and organizations grow to enhance and expand on the work of farmers. Most importantly we become food secure: massive quantities of affordable calories to feed a hungry world and elaborate foods to satisfy the most highly refined tastes. While government aid to starving nations and generous contributions to food banks are important, the true path to food security is through conscious choices that enable farmers and the food system do what they do best.

Before signing off, I’d like to congratulate Adam Sharp, Farm Bureau’s new executive vice president; I know he’ll provide great leadership to this great organization. And, a special thanks to the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation, which I’ve recently learned has created the Fisher Fund for Lifelong Learning. I’m proud that it will play a role in developing agricultural leaders.

Thanks, too, to you, the members of Ohio Farm Bureau. It’s been fun and fulfilling. God bless you all.
John C. (Jack) Fisher
Ohio Farm Bureau executive vice president