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June 30, 2021

The Unwavering Perseverance of the American Farmer

Independence Day is a time to reflect and celebrate the perseverance and determination of American farmers and ranchers.  

Perseverance is defined as the “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition,” according to Merriam-Webster. No one captures the meaning of this word more than the American farmer who faces difficulties, failure, and opposition each day to continue providing for others. This Fourth of July, we would like to honor these hardworking families by sharing some of their stories of grit, dedication, and perseverance.  

U.S. agriculture is unique in that farmers face various challenges that are often beyond their control. Most recently, our American farmers have had to find ways to overcome roadblocks created by, 

Farmers cannot change the weather or the price of supplies, so instead, they prepare, pivot, and adapt to persevere through it. 

“Farming’s hard. There’s no easy way to farm, and there’s no magic potion. It makes you hardy, and it makes you humble because you work so hard to build something, and in an hour, it’s gone.”   

Jamie Johnson, California Avocado Rancher 

Fortunately, the story of the American Farmer does not end hereDocumenting operations across the nation has given us the unique opportunity to see the innovative ways farmers overcome the unpredictable challenges that come their way.  

When faced with these challenges, American farmers rise to the occasion each time in order to provide food for their families, their country, and the world. 

A History Rich in Perseverance and Family Values  

Throughout our nation’s history, the family farm has been a foundational component of both U.S. agriculture and the evolution of American civilization. The perseverance of American farmers and ranchers is propelled by the families that stand behind and beside them. These stories we share reflect the noble way of life that American family farms have sustained for centuries.   

Farm family standing side by side in a California avocado grove in front of green trees

The Inspirational Stories of Hardship and Perseverance 

American farmers continue to adapt and evolve, demonstrating their unwavering perseverance. Our AgAmericans are continually inspired by how American farmers continuously persevere through hardship to provide for others. In doing so, they often place the needs of their families and our nation ahead of their own.  

A Story of Inspiring Drive and Dedication 

One such story involves a dedicated man who embodies the family values that this nation was founded on. 

Richard Hudson is a third-generation Georgia farmer who not only runs his family’s farm but also cares for his brother. His dedication to both the farm and his family illustrates his profoundly caring nature and inspiring work ethic. Managing a farm and caring for family is incredibly time consuming and requires a dedicated and driven individual. Despite the weight of these responsibilities, Mr. Hudson chooses to make the personal sacrifices necessary to provide for both his family and our nation. 

Farmer leaning against a fence near a cow

Richard’s story reminds us that all farmers experience both personal and business-related struggles. This is one of the many layers that make American farmers so admirable. 

The Ability to Pivot and Adapt   

A crucial component of farming includes the ability to evolve one’s operation in response to the changing world around them. In order to succeed in this volatile agricultural market, farmers must make life-changing decisions in an instant when faced with unpredictable variables such as global pandemics, natural disasters, and a changing ecosystem.   

We learned from the Cooley family that American farmers are remarkable at adapting to unforeseen changes. COVID-19 brought a multitude of challenges, but like many farmers across the nation, the Cooley family faced these challenges head-on with inspiring optimism and drive to keep providing for the American people no matter the cost. 

Green rows of crops with a hazy sky backdrop

As a result of COVID-19, the Cooley family was forced to send home a third of their workforce and plow over some of their crops because they lacked the necessary help to harvest them. Despite these obstacles, they remained positive and persevered. 

 “So what we’re going to do is get ready for another year. We’ll plant and prosper and keep everybody in the right mood. Let’s get through this year. Let’s persevere and make it till next year because next year will be better.”  

James E. Cooley, South Carolina Farmer 

Through it all, the Cooleys continued to provide for their remaining farmworkers. Over 150 farmworker families depend on them to provide work. And the way they fulfill this role throughout the pandemic warrants tremendous admiration and respect.  

“Being part of a family farm, you have to make a conscious effort every day when you wake up to make sure you’re making the correct decisions not only for the business but for your family.” 

Bethani Cooley-McLellan, South Carolina Farmer 

Vigor to Take Calculated Risks 

The willingness to take risk has played a crucial role in our nation’s history. From the Apollo 11 mission of 1969 to the revolutionary spirit of our nation’s founders, the bravery to risk it all for the benefit of this country has made our nation what it is today.  

Some of the most intelligent risk-takers are our farmers and ranchers. After all, we would be nowhere without food to sustain us. Farmers knowingly take on a tremendous amount of risk each year to provide for others. Because so many factors that they depend on are unpredictable, there is no way for them to know if they will make a profit that year. For instance, AgAmerica was able to capture the tenacity of the Worsham family in Georgia, as they endured Hurricane Michael which led to the decimation of many of their crops.  

“We’ve spent all this time growing this season, invested all of this money, and now we’ve come right to the very end, I mean we were within a week of harvest. And now, all of that’s basically lost.” 

Lanair Worsham Jr., Multigenerational Georgia Farmer 

After their devastating crop loss, the Worsham family demonstrated their resilience by instinctively picking up the pieces to rebuild their operation—a testament to their astounding perseverance in the face of extreme adversity. Their drive to rebuild inspires us by reminding us that this is the same drive reflected in the lives of farmers nationwide. 

“I hope from this experience that the wider community and country will understand what agriculture and farming is and how much risk is involved. You put up your life’s savings in literally betting the farm to make a crop every year with potential for natural disasters and other things that are completely outside of your control that you have to factor into your business model.”   

– Lanair Worsham Jr.,  Multigenerational Georgia Farmer 
Green trees surrounding a small pond

These stories are just a glimpse into the countless stories of American farmers and ranchers that deserve to be celebrated. Our nation’s strength has always been in its people, and the strength of character in the American Farmer is a perfect example of that. 

The American Family Farm: Resilient Through the Tides of Change, Hardship, and Joy 

As these stories demonstrate, family farms are the backbone of U.S. agriculture as they are what sustains our nation. Today’s generation of farmers are continuing the legacy of the farmers who came before them. Whether you’re forging a new path or continuing your family’s legacy, you play an essential role in the story of American agriculture.  

Examples of modern-day family farm operations can be seen in the many families we have showcased in our documentaries. From Jamie Johnson’s avocado farm to Randy Wheatley’s cattle ranch, a common thread that ties each of their stories together is the grit, dedication, and perseverance that is at the heart of every farmer and rancher. These farmers take great pride in training the next generation by sharing their passion for the land, the food they grow, and the people they serve.  

“What does it mean to work with my family each day? Well, it’s a blessing. How many other people get to do that? Family means everything. That’s what I’m working for. It’s not all about me, it’s about keeping it going.”  

James E. Cooley, South Carolina Farmer 

American farmers carry an immense responsibility to feed their families, our nation, and the world. Through the good times and the lean ones, they continue to persevere and provide.  

Green farmland next to a country road bordered by green trees

Over the years, AgAmerica has gleaned important life lessons from the farmers we are honored to have met. From hearing their encouraging stories of how they rebounded from catastrophic weather events, to learning how they adapted in the face of the greatest pandemic in our lifetimes, we are forever inspired by their unwavering perseverance. 

Join us in celebrating their profound impact on this Independence Day by watching Proud to be an AgAmerican. 

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