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Posted on Nov 6, 2014

Local farming community is impressive

I like people.

Every person I meet is an opportunity to learn something new.

Like the young dancer from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation who asked me several years ago to join him as he danced in the tribal longhouse. I was a little bashful, but the young man in costume got me up on my feet to experience a culture very different from my own.

People have taught me things about life, too.

Like how a little open-mindedness can go a long way. When a woman in Montana who built a two-story home from rocks told me her art spoke to her, I thought she was speaking metaphorically. Then she held a large rock up to her ear and started talking to it. This woman was an incredible artist, and I was lucky to see her work. (And I should have asked that rock for a quote.)

And, occasionally, people leave you in awe of the human spirit.

Several years ago, I interviewed a 17-year-old Prosser High School student days after he had fallen from a bareback rodeo competition, leaving him paralyzed below the waist. His spirit had been unbroken; he told me confidently he would ride again some day. His positive attitude and smile on his face just days after a life-altering accident blew me away. I still read the occasional story about Jared. Last I heard he was married, farming and headed to Florida to try an experimental treatment. He wasn’t walking, but he was still trying.

Over the years, I’ve also met a handful of people who disgust or anger or even frighten me. Those are stories that just come with the job. Luckily, there aren’t many of them. Most people make me smile, which is a good thing, considering I spend a lot of time with a lot of different people.

These past couple of weeks, I have been doing a lot of smiling. I have been especially taken aback by several people here in Quincy. I don’t recall, in more than two decades of reporting, of ever having interviewed such a large group of impressive people. And they all had one thing in common – agriculture.

With the Farmer-Consumer Awareness Day edition that’s included in this week’s issue, I’ve been running about Quincy, interviewing a number of people in the farming community. The Farm Family of the Year, Carl and Mickie Yeates, was a feel-good interview about one couple’s love for one another. If every couple treated each other as Carl and Mickie do, the world would be a better place.

To listen to Honorary Farmer Alex McGregor speak about farming and its promising future is inspiring. He makes you want to go grab a shovel and plant something. With the knowledge and passion he eagerly shares with people, Alex is a friend to every farmer in this state.

Then there was grower Steve Low, a soft-spoken man who’s an example of how many of the Quincy-area farmers have treated me these last several months. He was generous with his time and patient as he answered all my questions, no matter how urban they made me seem. (What’s the top of a carrot called, again?)

I did an interview recently from a semi-truck with 22-year-old Mitchell Karstetter. First, I couldn’t believe I got into that truck without falling on my face. Secondly, Karstetter was a confident, knowledgeable young grower. If his is the face of this area’s future grower, Quincy is in great shape.

Perhaps most fun was 17-year-old Blaine Lee. That is one enthusiastic guy. (And he let me play with his pigs. Any time I get to pet a critter on an interview, I’m happy.) I couldn’t help but think how nice it would be if every high school student, including my own, was as focused and dedicated as Blaine.

To get to talk to all of these amazing people, people with a passion for agriculture and the farming lifestyle, was a privilege. Each one taught me something new, and several left me in awe of their dedication to agriculture. I will attend my first FCAD this Saturday with all of them on my mind.

Jill FitzSimmons is the editor of the Quincy Valley Post-Register. She can be reached at editor@qvpr.com.

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