Every couple years or so, I like to read the FFA Creed. I served as my FFA chapter's creed speaker way back in 1961 or '62, and in the competition I made it past the first level.
I remember the first words of the creed easily, but the creed I memorized is not the creed of today, just like the FFA of today is not like the one in 1961 or '62.
The creed has expanded its scope from emphasizing farming to all things agricultural. That's a good move as the number of farms decrease, but the need to raise food, fuel and fiber remains great.
The creed I knew and the creed of today still identify that farming is more than crops and livestock.
It is a commitment to a life that seems to have its share of ups and downs, but we persevere in spite or because of them.
The creed stresses independence, strength, leadership, integrity, recognition of community, all fine traits.
The words of the creed set a high standard for everyone.
I don't believe I was thinking about the creed when I was chopping frozen silage off a silo wall with a pick axe. Or trying to start a balky diesel engine on a frigid January morning with a can of ether.
I was not feeling especially noble when I made my twice-a-year trip to the county treasurer's office to pay property taxes.
Yes, there were, and still are, moments when I shake my head at whatever job needs to be done and wonder why me.
But there are also those times when I have checked in on a mother cat with a new litter of kittens. Or stood outside looking at a great and glorious sky, just being grateful that I can witness my surroundings.
It will always be a treat to wave at someone as we pass on the road, even people I don't know.
Or when a neighbor calls and asks if I can help with something and I can because I am my boss.
I value the connection I have with the people and the land around me.
I am the fourth generation on this farm with the fifth generation ready, willing and able to continue.
I grew up in a great place during a great time. How did I get so fortunate?
What can I do so that others can have that same good life?
The creed closes with words about tradition, influencing home and community and describing that as an "inspiring task."
My dad was all of those things and he never read the FFA creed.
I can think of my neighbors, some of them are now gone, who are and were everything the creed aspires to, without reading the creed.
They did the creed's "inspiring task" because they were inspiring people. I would hope I can be thought of in the same way when I am gone.
Clayton Rye is a farmer from Hanlontown, Iowa. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.