It's Our Turn: Invisible farmers, lumberjack angels and magic water fairies
February was our month, I recall thinking when I was a little girl. My dad and I were both born in February. Winter always reminds me of him. Cork-studded boots, flannel shirts, wool pants, the smell of pine needles and sawdust, that's my dad - a logger.
This week I was fortunate enough to meet another logger, whom I believe delivered a powerful message. Bruce Vincent was the guest speaker at the Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers Association banquet on Monday night. His dad was a logger too.
Vincent shared a story about when he was a child and his school principal told his father that it would be a shame for Bruce to grow up to be a logger. Bruce painted a picture with words of his father looking down at his weather-worn hands and feeling ashamed for not having become something more than a simple logger.
I pictured my dad's hands. The hands I held as a little girl that felt strong, not worn. The hands that swung axes and guided chainsaws and braided my hair. The hands that so many American loggers, farmers and miners use every day to feed their families and the economy. The hands that more politicians should be shaking.
It seems the policy makers and the recipients of the policy backlash are not connecting. A divide is growing ever larger and finger pointing is casting blame on those who work in the land instead of on - or rather off - the land.
The topic of debate? Water. A substance that covers three-quarters of our planet's composition and we're fighting about water. Clean water specifically. City dwellers think rural folks are polluting the water - their water that magically comes out of a spigot in their sparkling sanitized homes. So clearly, the answer is to stop farming, right?
Now, through my editorials I have professed not to be an expert on many things. Farming is one of those things. I know the debate involves pesticides and water runoff. I don't know all the facts and figures, but I do know that stopping farming is not going to help anyone.
As I drove down to Alexandria from the Iron Range to interview for a reporter position with the Echo Press, I witnessed the transition from mining towns and pine trees to little communities alongside the highway separated by vast farm fields. Pumpkins. I remember a lot of pumpkins, corn stalks and these boring green pastures that I later learned were soybean fields. I imagined farm families sitting down to eat a well-earned dinner at a rustic kitchen table and could almost smell the biscuits as the sun set and the dew settled atop the crops.
I'm an Iron Ranger. Mining drives the ore-penetrated cells in my body. People have joked that my hair is red because my mom worked in the iron mines when she was pregnant. I'm not a logger. I'm not a miner. I'm a journalist and I get my hands dirty in other ways, by exposing truth.
I didn't follow in my parents' footsteps. Maybe not all farmers' children need to take over the family farm, but if less blame and false accusations were cast upon their family's trade, there is a chance that a few more might keep the business going. A farm is a business, after all, and where would Wall Street be without Main Street markets? Hungry. Biscuit-less.
My dad passed away with a chainsaw at his side in the Minnesota woods where he belonged. Never did he feel shame for being a logger and he never forgot who was responsible for the food on our table. Next time you sit down to dinner, take a minute to thank the invisible farmer for your food and the magic fairy for your water. Maybe one day the two will meet and lumberjack angels will rev their chainsaws in delight.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.