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April 04, 2008   Email to Friend 

Townsend Kyser
(334) 624-5689
April 04, 2008

Townsend Kyser
GREENSBORO, Ala. -- Someone once said: "The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation."

Isn't that the truth, especially if you do happen to be a young farmer or rancher?

Young farmers can attest that sometimes we check sensibility and practicality at the door and just go for it -- whether it's buying more cattle, hedging futures contracts or even continuing to farm when the odds seem stacked against it.

While a good head for business always prevails, it's the ol' ticker that ignites our passion for farming. Maybe that's why the majority of today's young farmers and ranchers say they are optimistic about the future of our industry. No matter what the skeptics may say, you can't get away from what's in your heart.

I had a great uncle, a doctor, who used to take jabs at my dad because he was a farmer. This went on for years until one day my dad countered him with the fact that as a doctor, my uncle was spending the majority of his life working toward the day he could retire and do exactly what daddy did everyday of his life -- run a farm, enjoy the outdoors and spend quality time with his family. My uncle never said another word again.

It's that quality of life and love of the land that draws most young people back to the farm. It's the sense of knowing you are keeping your farmland in the family for another generation. And it's the pride that comes with upholding the tradition of producing some of the best and safest food in the world.

My granddaddy started our Alabama catfish farm in the 1960s. And now, as I watch my two-year-old daughter squeal when she rides a horse or moo when she sees a cow, I realize she's a farm girl already. It's in her blood, and it makes the challenges of farming worthwhile.

Farming is not easy. As catfish farmers, on any given day my family faces import issues with China and Vietnam. Tilapia is slowly infiltrating our market. And if that's not enough, after 40 years of marketing and education campaigns, the majority of people still think catfish are dirty bottom dwellers, instead of the extremely healthy fish they are.

All farmers face challenges of one sort or another. It's what they do under those circumstances that will help shape the future of our industry.

So, my message to all young farmers and ranchers is be energetic in all you do, whether it's telling your story, getting involved in leadership, or just the day- to-day business of running your farm. Be proud of what you do. When needed, take the time to set the record straight about our livelihood. And always listen to your heart; it's usually a pretty good guide toward the direction you want to head.

And, one additional thing: Eat more U.S. farm-raised catfish. It's good for you.

Townsend Kyser, a catfish farmer from Greensboro, Ala., is chair of the American Farm Bureau's Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.

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