The Journey Is Just as Important as the Destination

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Photo credit: George Hiles via Unsplash

Some of my fondest memories as a child were spent sitting on the porch of the country store in my home community. Folks gathered daily to enjoy a Coke and bologna sandwich, compare farming notes, play Rook and discuss community happenings. While it was rare to encounter a stranger in our small community, I remember the evening a young lady pulled in front of the store to ask for directions. The biggest prankster in the store quickly said, “Ma’am, you can’t get there from here.” Without hesitation, she offered her thanks and drove away. And while the men all chuckled, I worried for quite some time if she ever found her destination.

For farmers, we’re always on some sort of journey. It might be to the parts store, the Co-op or to deliver our product to market. There’s also an annual journey that includes financing, planning, praying and lots of hard work in hopes of a successful season. It’s almost like an elusive prize; trying to grow more by using less, even as profit margins often grow slimmer. And then there’s the lifelong journey we strive for – to remain viable, profitable and productive, all while taking care of our families and protecting and preserving our farms for future generations. No doubt, farmers know what they need in order to have a successful season, but the path to success can sometimes seem unachievable due to circumstances beyond our control – difficult weather conditions, global trade issues, insufficient labor and government regulations.

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I’m reminded of the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness in the Old Testament. After being rescued from slavery in Egypt, God promises “a land flowing with milk and honey.” But for some reason, God chooses to take them a roundabout way for 40 years. Yes, you read that right, 40 years. Not 40 years of roses and rainbows either, but 40 years full of trials and tribulations. Once they arrived at the Promised Land, though, the people of Israel are stronger from their experiences, more mature through overcoming adversity and more faithful to God. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it in the end.

Throughout our lives, we might know our destination, but the path to get there could be much different than we expected. Even so, the journey to get where we want to go is critically important. In Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” he wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Whether you’re a farmer, nurse, educator, technician, lawyer, accountant or stay-at-home mom, you’ve gone on some sort of journey to get there. The path has most likely not been perfect, probably with a few hiccups along the way, but those experiences shape and mold us to be better than when we started.

Jeff Aiken

If you were to ask Siri to search for my country store today, I imagine you would get a similar response to what the gentleman told the young lady because the store no longer exists. For years, the store served a vital role in our community, providing groceries, gas and a connection to one another. But I honestly never realized or appreciated its true value until it was gone. Sometimes the most important things to us are so much a part of our daily activities that we seldom think about how valuable they are until they are no longer there. All that remains of the store now is a vacant building, but I can assure you the memories of people, stories and values learned have shaped who I am today.

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I trust you share my concern of reaching a point where we can’t find a farm nearby because we failed to support them and took for granted the difficult journeys farmers and their families endure each and every day. That’s why we need your help and support to ensure our hardworking and humble farmers can continue producing the same safe, abundant and dependable food supply we’ve enjoyed for many, many years. Let’s never take for granted what those who care for the land and animals provide for us daily.

As I think about what life looks like on the other side of this, I hope and I pray we will be better because of it all. Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. Yes, our hearts hurt deeply for those who have lost loved ones, jobs, experiences and much more. And yes, this has been a journey no one could have ever imagined. But friends, what have we learned? What have we gained from our lives being put on pause? I’m not implying this has been fun by any means, but what I am hoping you will grasp from these stories and this pandemic is the importance of keeping our eyes on the destination, but while appreciating the journey God will take us on to get there. Again, it might not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Jeff Aiken is president of Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He and his wife, Carol, work tirelessly to advocate for farm families across the state. They also remain active with their family farm in Washington County.

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