Have you had anything to eat lately? Perhaps you should thank a farmer for that. The importance of this lost profession is sometimes lost in the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, but it is just as important now as ever.
That is what Chris Murray wants people to remember as they chow down. Murray was named the first runner-up for Outstanding Farmer of the Year – an award sponsored by Lawson Building Supply/ Kubota Equipment – during the 2014 Farm Expo in January.
“Farming may be old school, but people have got to eat,” Murray said.
The profession of farming seems to be a selfless job with millions of people depending on the farmers of this area and the nation in order survive.
“If I don’t raise these cattle, people aren’t going to eat. Farming ain’t always about making the dollar. It’s about other things too, like other people,” Murray said.
Being a farmer is a childhood dream-come-true for Murray. He’s been farming since he was a kid, growing up watching both his father and grandfather tend to the tobacco fields and raise cattle.
“My papaw always had cattle, and me and him were real close,” Murray said. “He sort of made me want to have cattle and would take me to the cattle market on the weekends. That was something that I always wanted to do as a kid.”
However, the dream isn’t always as easy as one imagined.
There are a lot of things that go into the fluctuation of the price of cattle and farming. One year, the feed may be high which means you want to buy your cattle at a lower price, according to Murray.
One thing that remains stable for the farmers is the Farm Expo that is held in Kingsport every year. The world of farming is a small world, according to Murray. The Farm Expo gives people the chance to mingle and network.
“When you get out there talking to people, you can see how small a world it is. It always seems like you are kin to somebody out there, or they know you from somewhere. So it’s just a good social thing.”
This year, it wasn’t only the chance to meet people and see new products that Murray experienced. He was first runner up for Farmer of the Year, an award that earned him $500 and a plaque.
More importantly, though, it introduced him to another young farmer, winner of Outstanding Farmer of the Year, Dusty Saylor.
Saylor and Murray are 27- and 26 years-old, respectively, which seems to speak to the huge potential for the future of farming. Neither of the men considers the award a personal recognition.
“I think Dusty said it best when he said that ‘This isn’t a personal award, it’s for all farmers,’ because I think these are awards that represent us all,” Murray said.
Despite the youth of the two farmers recognized this year, Murray doesn’t think the future of farming will flourish here until people start to respect the land.
With the ever-expanding annexation by cities, people sometimes fail to remember that all of the land that becomes roads and business use to be farm land. That is something that Murray worries about in this area.
“Around here, the future of farming doesn’t stand a chance,” Murray said. “Because everything is going into a subdivision or a trailer park. Within the past 20 years, I have seen three or four subdivisions go up just on my road. People like that don’t understand farming. They just see a house.”
Farm Expo shines a light on the farmers of the area and helps people remember the importance of the things they contribute.
“People see you going up and down the road riding a tractor in the snow and they think it’s crazy,” Murray said. “They don’t understand I’m feeding that person.”
One way for people to show support to their local farmers is to buy locally. Farmers Markets are a great way for people to get fresh products and help local farmers. While Murray doesn’t sell his cattle there, he is still supportive of the markets.
“It helps support the local farmers and your local community. It isn’t going nationwide and you know that your produce is fresher,” Murray said.
The Farmer’s Markets do help the consumer get fresher produce because it doesn’t go through the long process of major companies. It also helps the local farmers turn a bigger profit, as they don’t have to depend on those same major companies.
With changes in the market, it’s easy to see that farming isn’t always as beneficial to the farmer as it is to the consumer.
“Farmers want to help people out and try to make a living doing it,” Murray said. “It’s a dream and you live a dream until you can’t do it anymore.”