Reporter's Note: President Obama is from Illinois, where I used to work on farms as a kid. I’m not sure what he’ll do after his Presidency, but I like to think I’ll always have my corn-growing skills to fall back on, should the letter writing business dry up.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
Did you see that absolutely marvelous Harvest Moon this weekend? I was driving one of my daughters and her friends to Georgetown for dinner right before the Homecoming Dance, and it appeared at the end of the roadway. Really magnificent.
Most Americans don’t think much of the Harvest Moon, or frankly even the harvest, these days. I’ve driven past soybean fields with urban colleagues, and when I’ve mentioned something about the crop they’ve looked at me as if I’ve sprouted horns and starting flicking flies with my tail. Not to disparage too much, but they’ll prattle on for ten minutes about the virtues of free-range chicken, and often I’m pretty sure they’ve never spent any time among any actual chickens on any kind of range, free or otherwise.
A hundred years ago, about a third of our countrymen were farmers. (Some estimates are much higher…) In those days, even the people who were not directly involved in farming had grandparents, uncles, aunts, or cousins who worked on farms. In other words, almost every family knew a fair bit about farming, if only by osmosis. These days, not so much. Only around two percent of Americans farm. The rest of us live on the food they produce in blissful ignorance of how it actually made it to our tables. Seriously, have you ever stood in a grocery store aisle and just asked yourself: Where the heck did all this come from?
I’m thinking about this, because I received an e-mail from an old family friend, who is actually a farmer. He was describing how excessive rains gullied out his fields this year, delayed planting and harvesting, and how getting the land back into proper shape will probably take a long time. I think it is important for all of us to remember, in these days of instant information and technology that certain, critical parts of our existence still rely on some very basic, very old things. Seeds going into the ground. Time passing. Rain falling. Hard work beneath a summer sun, and restless nights beneath a Harvest Moon.
So my advice to you is the same as I’d that I give to all my urban friends: Go outside and look at the moon tonight, and think about the harvest, and the people who grow our food, and remember how much they matter to every other plan or dream our nation has.
Then…uh…pull out that fancy cell phone of yours and call me.
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