At Christmas Time, Consider How Fortunate You Are

This past week we had some of the best harvest weather of the fall season. With winter arriving tomorrow there is still lots of crops to harvest in southwestern Ontario. Who would’ve ever thought at the start of the season that we would be going into winter with some soybeans still in the people. As we look toward Christmas next week, it looks like it will be green at least in this part of Ontario.

This is my 33rd year writing this column so you can figure it out pretty fast that I was a fairly young man when I started. There have been a lot of Christmases on the way to where we are now in 2018. Back in those days Christmas time was just a lot different. However, I think that we can say that for most things, because it was before the Internet and believe it or not, even before computers.

It was a time when if you called somebody on their phone and it kept bringing, they weren’t home. If you got a busy signal, there was hope but invariably it went on forever. It was a simpler time, but not necessarily any better. Needless to say, then as of now here in Canada we have a lot to be thankful for.

I suppose part of that is because I think much more about my needs versus my wants. A shortage of capital was always my problem in my younger days and of course when you went thru the 1980s it was worse than that. I’d like to have newer big tractors to drive, but the agricultural economic reality gets in front of me all the time. At the end of the day, I’m blessed and I’ll take that especially when I consider other people might be less fortunate than me.

At the end of the day, we as farmers are food producers. It might not seem that way sometimes especially in commodity agriculture where we grow corn and soybeans, but eventually that turns into food minus the ethanol and biodiesel. So it is never lost on me that there are still people in our society who are hungry. For instance, I have supported our local food bank on a consistent basis through the years. I read with interest recently where Ontario senior citizens are increasingly using food banks across the province. With us as farmers easily producing agricultural commodities in abundance, I’m always a little bit conflicted on the stories of people not having enough to eat.

Of course, there’s lots of in between on hungry in Ontario with food banks vs. the third world where some people are simply hungry and malnourished. At the same time in places like Bangladesh, luxury cars pass people hungry in the streets. There are lots of contradictions, so many, but it still bothers me that some people don’t have enough to eat when I produce so much food for myself and others.

25 years ago I first visited Bangladesh. It was an education, which changed me forever. People there were very poor, even though things have changed greatly over a 25-year period. Seeing groups of kids begging for food at train stations really bothered me, especially when one boy reaching for food, was knocked down on the tracks and started crying. That indelible image has always stayed with me and likely will forever.

Things have changed in Bangladesh, as I’ve been there six times over that 25 year time period. In a nutshell, sandwiched between China and India, the country is benefiting from being trade with both of them, incomes are rising and there is tangibly less poverty on the streets and in rural areas. It is all a result of the renewed economic growth in China and India and points in between.

I was there 11 months ago and saw lots of that evidence first hand. So it pains me to see starting earlier this year a trade war between the United States and China, which will only hurt both economies and by default those other countries in Asia. It would seem the current American administration thinks China needs to be brought down several notches. However, in my mind, that’s not good for the global economy, because it hurts all of us. We need to expand the global economy not shrink it.

Shrinking the global economy means more hungry people. I haven’t even mentioned Africa. Simply put, if these third world countries could rise up economically, it would lead to poverty alleviation and less hungry people. It’s all part of my worldview and something I think about often, surrounded by a world of abundance, especially an abundance of agricultural commodities.

In this Christmas season, its time again to be thankful for all we have. Take time to consider the less fortunate, some of whom may be hungry. We all do our part as food producers, but that hunger part off the farm is often overlooked. Merry Christmas to all.