One thing I’ve noticed in the past several years is a lack of moderation, not just in politics but just about everything else, a lack of civility where alternative views not only aren’t respected but are not tolerated.

We all could do well to learn from a farmer.

Both my parents’ families farmed for a living, and the life lessons they learned – a moderate lifestyle, hard work, respect for the land and an optimistic attitude toward the future – were ingrained both in my brother and me.

I would argue that I struggle at times with some of those lessons, but I firmly believe that the closer to the land you are, the more “grounded” you become.

That’s why programs like Farm Bureau Farm Animal and Safety Day held last week at the fairgrounds and events such as the Virginia Cooperative Extension Family Nutrition Program Fall 5K Fun, Run and Walk in Halifax on Saturday are vital to keeping us all connected and aware.

Youth from county elementary schools were exposed to everything from animal production to plant science in a three-day program I had no chance to experience as a youth.

The 5K event also included dietary tips from family nutrition program specialists as well as providing healthy recipes.

My farming experience is limited to the family garden, where my mother’s admonishment on many a summer morning, “let’s get some work done,” cut short my extended sleep time as a teenager.

I realize now how lucky I was to have the opportunity to grow corn and vegetables, doing everything from preparing the rows for planting to picking the crop, all with the final reward of having vegetables to eat through the winter months, courtesy of my mom’s familiarity with mason jars and canning.

I also had many opportunities to visit the Rogers family farm in Mecklenburg County, where Grandma Rogers allowed me to venture into the hen house to gather eggs in a wicker basket, roosters notwithstanding.

It seems that all of the technological advances and social media such as cell phones, twitter and tweet have made us even less connected than before.

We are what we eat, and our dependence on relatively low prices and convenience at grocery stores is not necessarily reflected in the rising costs of production for farmers as a whole.

That’s why the growing hemp market is so vital to communities like Halifax County, where growers now have the ability to acquire hemp crop insurance, a critical development in an area where the tobacco industry has declined so rapidly.

Many of us who would call ourselves “environmentalists” could learn from a farmer, whose living depends on the land.

I recall Vernon Hill farmer Michael McDowell’s comments at the recent Farm Bureau meeting and banquet, where he told a crowd of over 200 producers and supporters that regardless of the drought currently plaguing the area he has plans to grow crops next year.

Considering how crunchy dry my lawn is today, that’s optimism in my book.

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at