This is part of our August exploration of American values. We are showcasing daily voices recorded during the journey of ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm and his 21-year-old son Benjamin. Each day, you’ll hear men and women from various perspectives talk about our country. Please, add your own thoughts in this national conversation. Dr. Wayne Baker
Our responses Monday and today reach back to the first day of the U.S. journey in the cornfields of mid-Michigan. Starting tomorrow, you’ll find brand new responses.
As you read these daily stories, you are an essential part of this project, too! We want to read your thoughts about these questions, if you will click “Comment” below and add your voice.
What America means to me:
Michigan dairy farmers Shauna and Daniel Weil, part 2
Question: Americans seem to be united in their responses to the flag and anthem, but they’re also concerned in record numbers about financial wellbeing for themselves and their families. What concerns you about the future?
DANIEL: I think about conflicts with other nations. I’ve been reading recently about North Korea, for example, and I also think about the amount of energy America is using. As a farmer, I think about energy usage on a daily basis and I wonder: What are our kids going to be doing 50 years from now at the rate we’re using the world’s energy? There’s more than energy to think about. I’m concerned about our use of water. Anyone in farming thinks about that every day. Will there be enough water in the future to irrigate our farms? The way water is being used these days, we’re depleting our water resources. What will life be like for our grandchildren?
SHAUNA: I just finished reading a book “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl” that was about people who stayed in the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. These were farmers who had created a man-made disaster that destroyed their way of life. It took some years to realize they had created it themselves, but finally it became clear that choices they had made allowed that disaster to happen. Today, have we learned much? We’re still creating problems in our own pathway as a country and worldwide. I look at my youngest daughter and wonder: Will she be safe in the future?
Question: What gives you hope?
DANIEL: There’s a lot to fear if you’re a farmer. The average age of farmers, I’ve heard, is 50-plus. There are fewer young people getting started, because it’s almost impossible for a younger person to get started in family farming these days. The costs are just too high to start out now. The trend is against family farms and toward the large corporate farms. But we just survived one of the worst years we’ve ever experienced as dairy farmers. A lot of things happened in that year when the worldwide financial markets were hit so hard. Exports of dairy products dried up. All of a sudden, it seemed like we didn’t have an economy that was functioning. It was terrible for a year or so. But, now, the economy seems to be improving enough that dairy supply and demand is leveling off and prices are getting better again. We’re starting to make a profit again. Short term, the picture appears to be improving. I hope we’re back on track. We’ll never get rich, but farmers always hope we can at least make ends meet and keep our families going.
SHAUNA: America is my country and I’m proud of it, but our faith also is a very important part of our lives. What gives our family hope? Our faith is a large part of the hope we see each day.
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