Views from the Secretary

Views from the Secretary
Fruits of our labor

Like most farmers and ranchers, I have two jobs. One is being a West River rancher. The other is my city job as Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

While driving from the ranch to Pierre this week, I felt a little like one of those old horses that hates to leave the barnyard. When traveling away from the barn he resists direction just to let you know he doesn't want to go, but he tries to run when you turn his head toward home.


However, the horse and I have different motives. The horse just likes the comfort and security of his barn. I do too, but it is more than that. What I miss when I leave is the feeling of having done a good day's work with visible results.

Whether I fix fence, bale hay, build a barn or work cattle, there is some tangible work product I can look at when the day ends on the ranch. I know that I have produced something.

Most of the time, I can't do that in my city job. I see mounds of paper (including edited versions of this column), but tangible results of something produced or improved are rare and infrequent in that job. I can work hard and long for many days without seeing one tangible thing produced. I suppose many desk jobs are like that.

Farmers and ranchers are extremely fortunate in that regard. There is rarely a day of labor that does not produce a tangible result. I do not mean to imply this is exclusive to us. Artists, craftsmen, carpenters, masons and even writers can see tangible results of their labor I suppose, but it is different with a farmer or rancher.

The fruits of our labors are many. We feed the people of the world. We build economies, families, citizens and values that become the building blocks of our future. We build communities, roads and rural commerce. We build a life. We build a nation.

What a great feeling it is after a day of hard work to be physically tired but not mentally strained. At such times I often put my feet up in the cool of the evening and review the accomplishments of the day, while giving passing thought to those of tomorrow. It is a rare privilege to live such a life.

Maybe it is just me (or the nature of city jobs), but my desk job almost never produces anything close to the satisfaction I feel after a good day's work on the ranch.

Of course it is not free. About two thirds of farm and ranch families have one or both spouses working off the farm.

I wish more people understood that when people fight to save their "family farm," I understand why they are fighting and what they are fighting for, even if I don't always agree with what they claim is the threat.

There are many threats to our way of life, but we can overcome them, if we stick to our traditional values.

When others learn to value the fruits of our labors as much as we do, we can relax at the end of our day without fear of any threats to our way of life.�

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