I kinda hate to admit this, but I have a Facebook page. Yeah, I know, I’ve bemoaned the decline of literacy before, which I am convinced is partly due to an obsession with “lesser” forms of communication such as texting, instant messages, Twitter and Facebook.

It began years ago with e-mail. Folks, including myself, often put about as much thought into e-mail messages as we do a grocery list. Misspellings and typos abound. We abbreviate words and phrases that should not be abbreviated and we develop entirely new languages for e-talk. And that faux language creeps into our usual communication vehicles, creating confusion, ambiguity and sloppiness. We need to pay more attention, edit before sending and use these vehicles more appropriately.

So, I have issues with electronic communication vehicles. BUT, they are sometimes useful. For instance, my friend Daren Williams, executive director of communications for the National Cattlemen’s Association, recently posted the gem below on his Facebook “wall,” (another new e-term). Daren credits the quotation to an earlier post from his friend Jesse. Anyway, here’s the quotation:

Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands. Thomas Jefferson.

That was certainly true in Mr. Jefferson’s age, when a large percentage of the population still earned their keep from agriculture. It’s equally true today even though only a small fraction of U.S. citizens retain their agrarian roots.

In more than 30 years of covering agriculture, I can add little to Mr. Jefferson’s assertion other than “amen.” About 99 percent of the farmers and ranchers I’ve interviewed since the mid 1970s fit Jefferson’s definition. Independent, virtuous, vigorous, patriotic and dedicated to their profession all apply to a modern farmer or rancher.

I’ve never met more honest people; never encountered folks who were more dedicated to their work. They are, by nature I think, deeply spiritual people with a firmly held faith that without divine intervention the miracle of producing food from seed would not occur.

They bleed red, white and blue and see their calling as a service to their fellow man, to their country and to an international community that needs the food and fiber they produce. They may be independent to a fault and jealously hang onto the freedom to plant the crops that give them the best opportunity to earn a decent living from their soil.

They don’t like interference from any organization or agency that would impose limits on their ability to make reasonable decisions about how they farm. But they are devoted environmentalists, stewards of land and water, protectors of natural resources. They seek the most efficient ways to use water, crop protection materials and soil.

I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed a farmer who wasn’t heavily invested in making his farm better. I can’t count the number of times they’ve told me: “I want to leave the land better than I found it.” Most of them do.

More than 200 years ago Thomas Jefferson recognized the vital role farmers play in a free society. The work they do – the sacrifices of capital and labor they make – frees others to do different tasks: to govern, to manufacture, or to create music, art, and literature. Because of farmers and ranchers, the rest of us can pursue careers that enrich or enlighten, heal or inspire.

If we all were tied to the land, we would be short on doctors, ministers, artists, writers, and people who invent things like Twitter and Facebook, which, although prone to encourage bad spelling and poor grammar, can occasionally inform us and remind us of what’s important.

email: rsmith@farmpress.com