Ag and the flag

Mar 28, 2014 By Steven R. Peck

If patriotism is devotion to country, then our ag people are true blue

Office conversation on why the Riverton Avenue of Flags was displayed in all its sunny glory Friday morning led to assorted speculation as different people offered different guesses.

It turns out that Wyoming's now 4-year-old Welcome Home Veterans Day, observed normally on March 30, is taking place March 28 this year because March 30 is on a Sunday. So, out came the flags Friday.

Meanwhile, the guessing that came from the uninformed at the newspaper office (hold the wisecracks, please), yielded one intriguing idea.

Were the flags flying because of National Agriculture Week?

There's a lot of merit to that notion. Because if a definition of patriotism is the love, devotion and support of one's country, and if flying the flag is a symbol of patriotism, then it all fits.

What could be a truer demonstration of love of one's country than to care for its land as a way of life?

What could be a better way to show devotion to one's country than to feed it?

And what could show support for one's country more than a dedication to the challenges of ag life to meet the first two objectives?

The community in which our newspaper is headquartered owes its existence to agriculture -- irrigated farm land, to be specific. Before the tourism crossroads, before the uranium mines, before the oil and gas wells, there were the canals, steering water from the melting snow on high to the flatter lands below, where men and women of courage and optimism dared to turn sagebrush prairies and dry grassland into fertile agricultural property.

They did it, and they still are. Today, Fremont County is one of the nation's great suppliers of alfalfa hay, sugar beets and dry beans, with significant acreage proven in other crops.

Few states can match us in beef and wool, and our average farm size is tops in the nation as a family farming tradition persists on 11,000 farms. Our state has 30 million acres devoted to agricultural production. Tens of thousands of Wyoming citizens either are employed in primary ag jobs or in other businesses dependent on Wyoming agriculture.

The founders of the newspaper grew up on a dairy farm, and as a girl, the wife of one of them rode the ranch homesteaded by her father and grandfather. The very paper we print on is an agricultural product. Some of our color ink is made from soybeans.

Ag is everywhere.

On Thursday we published a story about agricultural "microloans" that are making things easier financially for some farmers. It's the fourth story we've had in the paper from the recent Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days. There may well be more.

Later in the day, reporter Eric Blom and photographer Wayne Nicholls were in the field talking to a Fremont County ag man. Look for that story in the days ahead, and for many more after that.

From the alfalfa field to the grain elevator, from the beet pile to the county fair, ag makes news -- and almost always for the right reasons.

So notice the flags today, and welcome home the veterans as intended. But keep a thought for the farms and ranches, and the people who make them go. They don't just display patriotism, they live it.


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