Voices of Agriculture
Early this year, farmers from all across the United States gathered in Nashville, Tennessee for the 94th American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting. AFBF is an independent, non-governmental, organization that represents the interests and concerns of American farmers. While attending the meeting, farming families visited with StoryCorps to share their experiences working on cattle ranches, growing up on dairy farms, and navigating new opportunities in agrotourism. “The Voice of Agriculture,” as AFBF’s slogan states, was captured in our recording space.
One particularly prevalent theme in these conversations was the special connection farmers feel with the animals they raise. Mark and Val Wagner spoke about Mark’s life growing up on a cattle ranch in North Dakota. He fondly reminisced about the calves who had big personalities (one was even named “Doofus!”) and how some were treated as family pets.
Val and Mark told StoryCorps that while raising cattle can be challenging in the harsh North Dakota winters, their favorite time of year is calving season when the babies are born. They spoke lovingly about the period of 45 days in below freezing weather. It is both an exciting and exhausting time for the Wagners. Farming is intensely difficult work, but these families find great satisfaction in the fruits of their labor.
Many Farm Bureau members remarked that there is a growing need for public education about modern agriculture. Val believes that people should feel comfortable having open discussions with farmers about where their food comes from and how it’s grown. Today, while Mark works in the shop he built with his father, Val is taking care of their four boys and preserving vegetables for the winter. The Wagners were just one of the many strong farming families present at the AFBF meeting. StoryCorps is truly privileged to archive these voices representing one of America’s most traditional professions.