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After 18 years, it's time to pack up the office

By JOHN FITZPATRICK Farm Bureau Published: December 31, 2016 5:00 AM

It is Thursday morning (Dec. 15) and bitter cold outside. I have just come in from a necessary 15 minutes outside in the wind and cold and am sitting here by my computer thinking about the farming families I have had the pleasure of serving for nearly 18 years. On mornings such as this they do not have the luxury of spending just a scant few minutes in those elements. Their animals need care, the equipment needs checked and, perhaps, repaired so it stands ready to serve those same animals with water and feed and other necessities. These are the kind of temperatures that tax the limits of everything on the farm.

As I write this I'm also thinking this will be my last editorial, at least in an official capacity. On Jan. 27 I will take the last of my personal memorabilia from my office and turn things over to an as yet unnamed new organization director for these great counties. My coworkers will no longer hear me refer to Ashland, Medina, Holmes and Wayne counties as "the center of the universe."

It has been a great ride! I remember interviewing at the Farm Bureau offices in Columbus in 1999 and promising Jeff Watkins that "he did not need to be concerned about turnover for 11 years" because I was not a young person just entering the workforce; I was more than middle age and would reach retirement age in 11 years.

Then I started working with the farming families I served and began relating to all of the local business people and all of the elected officials in the rural communities in these four counties -- people too numerous to attempt to mention because I am certain to unintentionally miss too many. All of those people have been more than fellow professionals, they have become friends! That is the way rural America is.

Eleven years has stretched to 18 and retirement age has stretched into the 70s decade and it probably wouldn't even be happening yet but some family obligations require that my time not be quite as obligated. Farm Bureau is a volunteer organization and everyone knows that Sandy and I are not leaving the area so we will continue to help with the many special projects during the year but we need to be able to say, "I can't right now" if something at home requires our attention.

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I could fill many columns relating a tremendous number of personal stories but this is an editorial column so I reserve the right to editorialize. Most of you know I came to Farm Bureau from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I am used to working with people who occasionally might need a "hand up rather than a hand out." There has not been a year that we have not been made aware of some local family struggling with illness or misfortune of some sort.

In each of those cases neighbors have responded with unreserved assistance. But, what type of assistance? Fellow farm families, tired after long days in their own fields and barns, have loaded up equipment and gone to their neighbor's fields and planted or harvested or milked or other chores as needed.

They have helped rescue animals from storm-damaged barns or rebuild farm buildings that have collapsed or burned. In every one of these circumstances the farm family (often wife and children because the father was injured or ill) were attempting to complete these monumental tasks for themselves as neighbors arrived to help out. This is the kind of personal responsibility to which America must return! Rugged individualism built this great nation and it will be rugged individualism that will restore this great nation.

Neighbor will continue to help neighbor as long as she can see that neighbor is trying to help himself.

Well now it is time to load up some more things from my office. It's a good thing that I brought my soapbox with me today.

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