This week has been a tough week for my family and me. Earlier this week, my father passed away.
It is never easy to lose a parent, and I, unfortunately felt that up close this week. Regardless of age, what they have accomplished in life, or what they have left behind, when a loved one says goodbye everything else is put into perspective. This hard lesson of loss has reminded me of all the other lessons my dad imparted on me throughout his life. My dad was a mechanic and he owned an auto repair shop in Salem, where I grew up and went to school. My dad was also a pastor who first helped me cultivate my relationship with God. It was from my dad that I learned the importance of having a strong work ethic and giving your all to the things that matter. It is these lessons that I am so often reminded of as I am traveling throughout southern Missouri and visiting with farmers and families. I see the same good old-fashioned values that my parents instilled in me—values that were handed down to them from six-generations of proud Missourians.
This summer, I met with so many wonderful farmers and their families who are growing up just like I did. The country roads of southern Missouri that weave together 19,000 farms are home to some of the hardest working people I have ever met. From the soybean fields in the Bootheel to the cattle pastures in the Ozark Foothills, our area is home to the most diverse agriculture in the country. Our farmers and ranchers are not only raising pigs and cattle and growing corn and cotton, but they are raising the next generation of Americans and growing vibrant communities.
I grew up working on my grandfather’s farm where I experienced what hard work looked and felt like, just like I see so many farm families in our area do each and every day. At Salem High School I joined FFA, and after studying Agricultural Economics at Mizzou, I took out a loan to keep our farm in the family. As a fourth-generation family farm owner, I understand the rich tradition of family farming in our area and the unique challenges that family farmers face. At every farm I visited, I am reminded that it is still that shared pride, tradition, and hard work that drives Missouri agriculture.
Our Missouri farms are where Americans are made, families reign supreme, and communities thrive. The driving force that makes any local community possible is the strong family units, which are one of the most important institutions in America. Family provides more than a roof over our heads. It is where we all grow up and learn our values, learn the greatness of America, and develop our love for God. These are the building blocks of strong communities and the anchor of a healthy society.
I loved growing up in a community that still emphasizes these morals. It is these timeless values that are in short supply in other communities across the country, but which are the norm here in southern Missouri. It is what my parents worked so hard to teach to me, what my dad instilled in me and it is the legacy my father has now passed on to me. I thank you all for your thoughts and prayers this week. My family, like our great state and our great country, has been through a lot, but we will continue to grow stronger from it.
In times of discouragement I find comfort in scripture, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4).