Family comes first

Created: 6/27/19 (Thu) | Topic: Leadership

Photo by AFBF

By Zippy Duvall, AFBF President

Most of us grew up hearing that family should always come first. In the day-to-day rush to get everything done, though, family can slip down on the priority list. Farm families often joke about the farmer caring more about the comfort of his animals than he does his own children—and it’s only partially a joke!

The pressures of today’s farm economy make it even more likely that we might prioritize the farm and ranch over our loved ones. Even when we’re sitting at the dinner table, we might not be “all there” because we’re thinking about the planting that still needs to be done or the equipment that broke today and has to be fixed tomorrow. We’re worried about prices and markets. We’re concerned about a sick animal. We always worry about the weather.

We worry about who is going to show up to work tomorrow to help plant and harvest our crops or take care of all those hundreds of farm animals because of our agricultural labor shortage.

As central as farming and ranching is to our lives, it still comes second to family.

Of course, we’re always thinking about how to pay for it all—and that can get pretty stressful these days! Believe me—I’ve been there.

There’s no shortage of worries that take us away from the folks around that dinner table. However, it’s times like this when we need our family more than ever. We need to remember why we do what we do, and we need to be present with our loved ones. It’s the time with our loved ones that gives us strength to tackle the to-do list with new gusto when we get back to it.

That email that seems so important today? Ten years from now you won’t remember it at all. You will remember farming with your children and grandchildren and teaching them about life. You will remember playing games or watching silly movies together. You will remember the family cookouts and softball games. You will remember camping or fishing together, singing and roasting hotdogs around a campfire, and telling stories. You will remember the time you spent with an aging relative while you still had the chance. You will remember when you and your spouse took a few minutes to share something interesting that happened that day. You will remember the smile on someone’s face when you took them some vegetables from your garden or just visited and reminisced.

It’s easy to feel left out or even a little jealous when we see pictures on social media of our family and friends at the beach or on a fancy vacation, but it doesn’t take all of that to show our family that we love them. The truth is it doesn’t cost anything to spend time together. All it takes is setting our work and worries aside for a little while and making our loved ones the priority they should be.

About a week ago, my friend and colleague Scott VanderWal, president of South Dakota Farm Bureau and vice president of the American Farm Bureau, was at a Farm Bureau meeting and was beaming with pride as he shared that he had a new granddaughter born that morning and another grandson due any minute. Scott’s happiness was contagious. We had just had a heavy discussion about the challenges of planting delays, trade wars and low farm income. Scott’s update was a much-needed reminder of what’s important, and I’m pretty sure that everyone around that table was thinking about their own families in that moment. It helped us put things in the proper perspective.

That’s just one of the things I love about Farm Bureau—the respect for family, and the feeling that we are all part of an even larger Farm Bureau family who care about each other. My wife, Bonnie, and I certainly have experienced the love of the larger Farm Bureau family.

As Americans get ready to celebrate our nation’s birthday on the Fourth of July, we have an opportunity to take a break from our farm work and daily stresses. We should take that opportunity, and it’s important that we truly leave our farm and ranch pressures behind so we can focus on what—and who—really matters. As central as farming and ranching is to our lives, it still comes second to family.

One of God’s greatest blessings is the gift of memories. Accept His gift this holiday and make those everlasting memories with friends and family.

I hope your holiday celebrations infuse you with new energy, focus, purpose and a sense of patriotism. May God keep blessing our families, our farms and our great nation.

Happy Fourth of July!

Zippy Duvall


Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. You can follow him on Twitter @ZippyDuvall.

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