|Hope for Progress|
by Ralph Rice
Horse Progress Days is a measuring stick designed to mark the
progress of horses and modern equipment. The emphasis, I think, is on the
progression of farm equipment and the teamsters who use it. The horse has not
changed much. Yes, old breeds are coming back to the forefront as teamsters
rediscover the characteristics that endear them to one breed over another. Some
horses, like the spotted drafts, are being bred for their hardiness and
endurance. The Suffolk is loved by many for its compact, powerful body and easy
keeping nature. Belgians and Percherons were well represented. Fjords, Shires,
Brabant, Clydesdales, and others that were once near extinction are bouncing
back as farmers and hobbyist reach to old-time wisdom to solve modern problems.Ralph Rice's column "Reflections"
appears regularly in Rural Heritage. This column appeared in the
Autumn 2003 issue.
The biggest problem is farm profitability. The wisdom is reaching for the
low input, value added aspects of farming. Since the mid 1940s the battle of
horse versus tractor has been fought around many an American dinner table.
Friends and foes still square off regularly in certain circles.
The madness created by cheap money in the 1970s caused the USDA and many land
grant universities to adopt the "get big or get out" attitude, which
led directly to the demise of the family farm. This behavior resulted in a large
shake-up in supply and demand causing milk, meat, and grain prices to plummet
and become more cyclical than ever. Some farmers sold horses and bought
tractors; others traded in small tractors for bigger ones. Soon more cows were
needed to service the debt created by purchasing the tractors and larger
equipment needed to keep up with an ever-expanding and demanding cow herd.
Prices continue to fall while divorce and despondency among farmers becomes
How could we have taken the noble and
blessed occupation of farming, a vocation that touches every family member and
reaches far beyond neighboring fences, and turned it into a despised commercial
venture? We did it by apathy. All of us want quality goods at cheap prices.
Every one of us searches out low prices and selection, and in doing so often
drives past the freshest, highest quality goods available anywhere. Shame on us.
Here in these rolling Ohio hills is a living, breathing farming community.
The members are dependent on each other. They work together to overcome the same
obstacles that burden us all. Their support of one another stimulates the local
economymoney earned in the area stays in the area.
viewed the progression of teamsters and equipment, watched the demonstrations,
and listened to the seminars I observed a hungry crowd. They had come to feast
on new ideas, devour new concepts, and store wisdom offered by craftsmen and
teamsters. Conversation, advice, and sweat flowed freely. Laughter echoed in
these Ohio hills as farmers, along with their city cousins, reflected on how far
we have come and how far we have yet to go.