Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Parable of the New Farmers

     Once there was a man who wanted to be a farmer. He obtained a few acres of land with a house and a barn and purchased a tractor and various supplies. Everyday he would put on his overalls and his straw hat and ride his tractor out into his fields. Through the field ran a concrete drainage ditch. The man would take his seed and diligently cast the seed into the drainage ditch. The man did this day after day and, of course, nothing grew from the seed he had sown.
     His neighbors had observed this odd behavior, and wondered what was going on. Finally one farmer in the community ventured to ask: “What is it you think you are doing out there?”
     “I am farming,” was the reply.
     The neighbor could hardly suppress his laughter but the man was not amused.
     The neighbor responded: “But you are sowing seed in the drainage ditch. Nothing can grow there! How can you call this farming?”
     “How dare you not call it farming?” the man said. “I am doing exactly what I feel like doing, and if you say this isn't farming then you are a hateful bigot.”
     The neighbor spoke to some of the other men in the community, and from time to time they would come out to the field and watch this strange behavior of the man casting seed into the drainage ditch. They talked about this odd neighbor and finally agreed along the lines of “well, I guess he can call that farming if he wants to, but I don't think his methods will catch on, at least not around here, anyway.”
     Some time went by. The man continued this odd behavior, along with his new partner in this experiment. Soon others had joined them, somehow managing to buy more land, and before long much of the farmland in that community was in the hands of these experimental “farmers” who sowed seeds in ditches and never harvested a crop.
     The local newspaper did a story about this new method of farming. The state agricultural extension agent was asked his opinion of this phenomenon. The agent was quoted as saying, “what these men are doing has never been recognized as farming in the entire history of civilization.”
     That's when things got ugly. Letters to the editor flowed forth condemning the backward, hateful, bigoted opinions of this “so-called expert.” Threats of lawsuits ensued. An organization of “new-farmers” began to demand to have representation in the local Farm Bureau. Demands were made for equal protection under the law. They declared they the “new farmers” were not being allowed the same governmental recognition and benefits as traditional farmers. They demanded that laws be changed so that “new farmers” could receive the same government subsidies, favorable loan interest rates, tax breaks, and disaster relief as did the traditional farmers. Soon the schools were involved. Libraries were searched for books that only described farming in traditional terms. It was demanded that these books be removed because they tended to reinforce antiquated stereotypes. New books were written extolling the virtues of the “new farming” methods. For a while the Future Farmers of America withstood the new movement, but even they eventually gave in to the unrelenting pressure and charges of “hate speech” and simply disbanded their organization.
    So it came to be that the definition of “farming” was forever changed and a man could now be a farmer, even if he only sowed his seed in drainage ditches.

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