I had the privilege of growing up in a small Mississippi Delta town in Sharkey County. I’ve since moved away, but when asked where I’m from, my answer is always Rolling Fork, Mississippi. My little hometown has changed tremendously since I left, but I’m proud of it and the people who inhabit it.
Like many towns across our state, agriculture plays a significant role in Rolling Fork’s local economy. From a young age, every job I held tied back to the agriculture industry in some way. Now, looking back, I know how fortunate I am to have grown up in an industry where its people believe in faith, family and hard work. Farming isn’t an easy job. Farmers do not work from 8 to 5 every day. Farmers work from daylight to well after dark, year around.
Growing up around the agriculture industry gave me an appreciation for hard work and the land God has gifted us. This appreciation drove me to purchase my own piece of land several years ago. While it may not seem like much to many, our piece of paradise means a whole lot to us. Those who know me know how much I love my ‘’farm,” as I often refer to it.
Two years ago, I decided to plant a pea patch out on the farm. During my first growing season, I felt like a true farmer. There is something special about tilling the soil, planting a seed, watching it grow, and finally getting to reap the rewards of your efforts. What sounds easy enough was soon met with challenges outside of my control. I often worried about rain and insect and deer damage. I often wondered if I would have a bumper crop or total failure. I made the effort to check on my peas every morning, and some afternoons, if time permitted. The process of growing peas was rewarding, but at the end of the day, it had no bearing on my family’s livelihood.
For many families in Mississippi, farming is their livelihood. Farmers today take on massive amounts of stress with little to no room for error. This stress takes on an entirely new meaning when it begins to impact a farmer’s mental health. Each and every day, farmers face razor thin profit margins, circumstances where they cannot provide for their family, and the fear of losing a farm that’s been in their family for generations. Despite these challenges, most farmers I know continue to farm forward with hopes of passing their legacy on to the next generation.
Farmers across the state will remember 2019 for years to come, as it’s been a year for the record book. Financial and weather challenges impacted every facet of the agriculture industry. This has only compounded the normal challenges of farming, and has put many in the position of potentially losing everything they have worked so hard to acquire. I cannot even begin to imagine what they are going through.
Farmers are resilient and tend to find ways to persevere. Its people like them that make me proud to be an American. With all the challenges facing agriculture, I am proud to work for an organization advocating for farmers every single day. It drives me to work on their behalf in hopes of leaving an industry better than it was yesterday. To all my farming friends out there, know that Farm Bureau supports you. We believe in you and will work every day to make your job easier. Stay safe and God bless.
Britton Hatcher is the Regional Manager for Region 3 at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation