A loyal reader of the Plain Talk has urged me to reprint Paul Harvey’s famed “So God Made a Farmer” speech this week, thinking it would be especially appropriate because as you read this the Clay County Fair is in full swing here in Vermillion.
The entire nation had the opportunity to hear Harvey read the speech because a portion of it, I believe, was included in a Super Bowl television commercial a few years back.
According to the information sent my way, the speech borrowed a few phrases from a 1975 article written by Harvey in the Gadsden Times, which was itself inspired by parts of a 1940 definition of a dirt farmer published in The Farmer-Stockman. The 1940 article was copied verbatim by Tex Smith in a letter to the editor in the Ellensburg Daily Record in 1949.
The speech was given as an extension of the Genesis creation narrative referring to God’s actions on the eighth day of creation. Harvey described the characteristics of a farmer in each phrase, ending them with the recurring "So God Made a Farmer.”
I’ll share the first two paragraphs and I’m fairly sure they will help you remember Harvey’s words:
“And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker”
So God made a Farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board”
So, God made a Farmer.”
I’m a bit fearful of reprinting it. There may be a copyright involved and I don’t want to infringe on that.
Reading the words that so closely define the role of a farmer certainly are inspiring – so much so that they have motivated me to expand that message just a bit to include “So God made a Farmer’s Kid.”
It’s easy to forget that the fair is designed to be a showcase for youth involved in 4-H.
That means our fair won’t have a midway and a carnival, and there’s a good chance people will complain about that.
There will be plenty of homegrown talent appearing on the fairgrounds this week, including music by Jetley Park and Elaine Peacock and Bluff Ridge and Billy Lurken and we wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy it without the 4-H Achievement Days.
We wouldn’t have Achievement Days without farmer’s kids and youth in the community who dedicate themselves to take part in all that 4-H has to offer.
So, once again I’ll issue a reminder to those who are ready to complain that “there’s nothing to do at the fair.”
The fair really isn't about you. That's not to say you aren't welcome to participate. In fact, you're encouraged to wander about the fairgrounds every day, to see what's going on, to enjoy the unique fellowship of fairgoers.
The fair is about the 4-H'ers who have been busy for most of the summer, if not longer, preparing for this event and for the South Dakota State Fair.
It's so easy to overlook the 4-H aspect of the fair. Many of us "urbanites" here in Vermillion naturally assume 4-H is designed for farm kids.
That's not true, although the youth organization's century-long history is rooted in agriculture.
In the late 1890s and into the early 1900s, 4-H programs began throughout the country in response to young people and their need for a better agricultural education.
Boys and girls clubs were established to meet this need. This community club model engaged youth through "learning by doing."
Most states organized clubs outside of schools with parents serving as volunteer leaders and educators providing appropriate educational materials.
No one individual is credited with originating the 4-H program but rather the program was founded through collective efforts of several individuals over the course of few years.
In 1907 or 1908, the program's first emblem used nationally was designed by O. H. Benson as a three-leaf clover. It stood for head, heart, and hands. In 1911, Benson suggested that the fourth H should be hustle, and the 4-H design was adopted.
I can't help but wonder if that's where my 4-H club got its name. I am an alumnus of the Humboldt Hustlers of Minnehaha County.
Later O. B. Martin suggested that health replace hustle. The 4-H emblem has stood for head, heart, hands, and health ever since.
In 1912, Benson established federal-state-county programs through cooperative agreements, which tied the three entities of Extension work together. Twenty-eight such cooperative agreements between the Office of Farmer Cooperative Demonstration Work and the land-grant colleges promoted youth club work.
By 1912, 73,000 boys and 23,000 girls were enrolled in club work. At a meeting in 1912, participants urged the development of a uniform reporting form to show what each member was learning and doing. This consistent reporting method provided a common base for club work across the country.
This practice has stood the test of time. Clay County 4-H'ers still must turn in their "records" each year. Local clubs hold their monthly meetings.
If you’re a former 4-H’er like me, one thing you’ll find when you visit the Clay County Fair this week is 4-H has evolved into an organization that prepares young people to tackle the challenges that await our nation and world in years to come.
Those challenges range from global food security, climate change and sustainable energy to childhood obesity and food safety.
Today’s 4-H offers young people across the nation a wide variety of STEM opportunities – from agricultural and animal sciences to rocketry, robotics, environmental protection and computer science – to improve the nation’s ability to compete in key scientific fields and take on the leading challenges of the 21st century.
Planning the three-day event each year takes a lot of planning, a lot of physical work by volunteers and the fair board and some savvy fiscal management, since funding is always an issue.
Thankfully, local business sponsors recognize the importance of this summer ritual and help make the 4-H-related events and the county fair activities possible.
Our county's 4-H'ers have put in tons of hours of work preparing for this week.
Their efforts will be rewarded as they participate in the county fair.
That's what matters. It’s why God made farmers’ kids.