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  • Writer's pictureArmstrong Williams

Armstrong Williams: a story of the soil and the soul | GUEST COMMENTARY

PUBLISHED: March 13, 2024 |

Hard work, passion, virtue and true grit mark the American heartland. Anecdotes, farm families spanning generations, and crop innovations speak volumes. They are all children of agriculture.

Farming teaches faith in God, food cultivation, animal husbandry, the value of love, the richness of relationships and the growth of character. Farming offers time for reflection — an Aristotelian balance between nourishing and strengthening the physical body and deepening and improving our souls.

From my earliest days, the farm was my classroom, and nature was my teacher. I learned to treasure my parents, a work ethic, discipline and sacrifice. A diminishing number of Americans are provided that chance today. Engaging in routine daily farm tasks and providing care for the animals instilled accountability and highlighted the precariousness of life, illustrating how it can be abruptly lost or extinguished over time. It further imparted the importance of nurturing your fate and the necessity of diligence and industry to accomplish your goals. I have never forgotten these lessons.

The farm also cultivates family togetherness, i.e., if we do not all hang together, we will all hang separately. My family of 10 has no bad blood. For our entire lives, we have been close, an intimacy that grows by the day. Our devotion to God and the lessons we imbibed on the farm unite us. It was under the vast, blue vault of heaven that I felt most connected to nature and in harmony with my family. It was an awesome spiritual experience and celebration of family.

Numerous references in the Bible establish a nexus between farming and God — thereby illustrating the interdependence of the nature of earth and spiritual development. Within the book of Genesis, God positions man in the Garden of Eden with the instruction to tend to and maintain it (Genesis 2:15). Since creation, humanity has been saddled with a responsibility to cultivate and maintain the land; 2 Corinthians 9:6 emphasizes the principle that you reap what you sow: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” This verse speaks to the law of harvest, a concept as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the physical world of farming, where the investment of effort, care and resources dictates the yield.

Farming imparts ethics and patience. It has been a privilege to have lived with the knowledge and skills I gained on the farm. It has made me a diligent professional and prosperous entrepreneur who knows how to innovate to overcome complex challenges. After learning how to manage a farm, everything else is as easy as pushing water downhill. Daily labor consists of harvesting crops, caring for livestock, and waking up before the break of dawn. It means working in sweltering heat with no shower breaks. Nothing else compares.

Farmwork puts life into proper perspective. All troubles are provisionally set aside. You derive solace from the woes of the world, discover tranquility and calm, and discover the answers that have been long hidden. When you listen to the farm noises — the cows mooing, the dogs barking, the cats meowing — epiphanies come.

The United States is forgetting the value of agriculture in all its moods and tenses. Processed food diminishes health. Farmland is gobbled up by the Chinese government. The number of American farmers is plunging. America is losing its signature identity.

No man is an island, entire of itself. Our deliverance is in unity — E Pluribus unum.

Agriculture teaches the hard truth of necessary interdependence and collaboration with the elements and with others. But division has become America’s watchword at our peril.  Turning back to acclaiming agriculture is a necessary first step to alleviating our alarming divisiveness.

Armstrong Williams (; @arightside) is a political analyst, syndicated columnist and owner of the broadcasting company, Howard Stirk Holdings. He is also part owner of The Baltimore Sun. This column is one of two he writes monthly about culture and politics, in addition to his weekly Owner’s Box column. 

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