Wisconsin farmers are American heroes

    Part of me really wanted to go to Farm Aid recently at Miller Park. Unfortunately, prior obligations took precedence.

    I’m not exactly what you would consider a "music guy." It’s not that I don’t like music; I just enjoy it more as something in the background. I have a few favorite bands, but I prefer to listen to music in my car, or while I’m putzing around the house … seeing my favorite band in concert is fun, but it’s just not my thing.

    But the music isn’t why I wanted to attend Farm Aid’s 25th anniversary show.

    Over the last few years, thanks to a spur-of-the-moment opportunity to work in the Agriculture Department at the Wisconsin State Fair, I’ve fallen in love with agriculture and farming.

    It’s always amazing to me when I see a young child’s face explode with delight the first time he or she gets the opportunity to get up close and personal with a cow while walking through the barns.

    My co-workers, a lot of them young, themselves, but born and bred on farms, still like to tease me for my bewilderment at what, to them, is basic knowledge (today, six years after an "incident," I still get teased for not having known the difference between hay and straw … it’s a big difference).

    When we talk about noble professions, we often think first of firefighters, police officers and teachers – all of which are vital to our society. But rarely do we discuss farmers who, in all probability, have the most noble and important mission in our society: feeding the world.

    I wanted to go to Farm Aid to show my support. I wanted to see the exhibits and demonstrations showing the urban public how important family farms are to America. I hope that people walked away knowing how important agriculture is to their daily lives.

    Once I learned that lesson … it changed my life. I take more time when at the local store to pay attention to where my food is produced. I don’t groan as much anymore when I’m forced to cough up a few more cents for a gallon of milk. I pay more attention when buying my meat, often choosing to pay a little more by going to a local meat market so I can be sure I’m purchasing from an area producer.

    Here in the city, there is a real disconnect when it comes to understanding agriculture and its role in our lives. It’s nobody’s fault, really, it’s just how we were brought up. But events like Farm Aid can go a long way to bridging that gap.

    There are some artists I would have really enjoyed seeing at Farm Aid – the BoDeans, Neil Young and Willie Nelson top the list – and while I hope everybody who attended Farm Aid walked away satisfied, I hope that people remember the concert’s purpose.

    Andrew Wagner is a writer at OnMilwaukee.com, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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