By Jess Campbell, AgriPOWER Class IX participant
I was standing on a farm in the mighty Potomac River basin that was, at one time, owned by the father of this country when it struck me how steadfast this profession of agriculture is. While we observed Mt. Vernon and George Washington’s innovative wheat operation, grazing sheep and fish harvested from the river at our backs, it was hard to not think about the fact that the livelihood of farming has remained viable and at its core the same for the past 250 years since George himself was standing there. When you think of other colonial professions such as a blacksmith, cobbler and wigmaker, it leads one to wonder how we as farmers got so lucky as to not find ourselves extinct as well in today’s era of fast paced change.
I think largely, we can thank George Washington himself. He is remembered by history as a general and first president; however, he thought of himself first and foremost as a farmer. This is a similarity a lot of our AgriPOWER class shares as well. They are also a firefighter or banker but their heart and soul is tied into the land, animals and agriculture. While at Mt. Vernon I couldn’t help but think it was Washington’s lifelong passion for agriculture and progress in that industry that influenced policies he established at our nation’s infancy that allow us to farm today.
Our journey to D.C. at its core was an exercise in all that is right in democracy and one that perhaps Washington himself would be proud of. We were telling our personal farm story and marrying our passions with those key issues developed from our peers. Policy made on both a statewide and nationwide grassroots Farm Bureau program to promote and protect our agricultural interests was communicated with our legislators and stories from our farms added life to them. This exercise in democracy seems like one that even our founding father would be proud of by taking a pulse of our peers and taking action to tell their story.
We were briefed on the issues by OFBF and AFBF and had a chance to get a congressional update from Rep. Bob Gibbs to get a more solid background before we headed for Capitol Hill. We got the chance to speak to our legislators and ensure they heard key issues from their constituents and how the decisions mandated 500 miles from our farm affected us every day at the barnyard. We also got the opportunity to visit the New Zealand embassy to learn about a nation that is based on exports and had a nighttime tour of the monuments.
My large takeaway from the trip was that George Washington founded us a United States of Agriculture and that Ohio and American Farm Bureaus are bringing us to D.C. to ensure future generations of farmers have the same opportunities as we do today.