Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Grannie's Letter to the Editor

(My "Grannie", Freeda Graziano, in the 1970's, holding a trophy she won in a local tractor pull.)

After my maternal grandmother (Freeda Graziano, aka "Grannie") passed away a few years ago, my aunt found an old, yellowed Baltimore Sun newspaper in the attic. It was dated March 18, 1973. At that time, she was married to my Grandfather, who still operates our family's farm in Maryland, raising crops and dairy cattle. The newspaper contained a letter to the editor from Grannie. Her letter is a rebuttal to an earlier article, which I do not have a copy of, but apparently it was by Gilbert Lewthwaite, was written about a farm in Iowa and was entitled "Price rise makes life easier on the farm". Mr. Lewthwaite's article included statements such as "the farmer is the major beneficiary from and source of current inflation." Ouch. I can see why Grannie took offense to such comments.

I so enjoyed her letter. She really "let 'er rip", and I was impressed to read the strong words from my witty, but generally soft-spoken, grandmother. I'm sure the original letter, if hand-written, was penned in beautiful cursive as well. I learned a lot from my Grannie. She was one of my best friends and I miss her everyday, but I'm grateful that I learned something from her even after she passed. We farm women, although generally a modest bunch, must stand up for what we believe in and that noone should underestimate us.

Grannie wrote "Sir: Gilbert Lewthwaite in his article "Price rise makes life easier down on the farm," leaves me with the distinct impression that a farmer shouldn't have the same priviledge as other working people: that is, of having a respectable modern home. Granted he doesn't spend as many hours in it as most people do, since his working day isn't a routine 8-hour day, but more likely 16 to 18 hours many months of the year; but most people still like a nice home to come home to, even farmers....

What is most puzzling to me is the fact that it took an act of God, a storm such as Agnes (hurricane that struck the east coast in 1972), to wake the people of this country up to the fact that a couple of bad years for the farmer will affect every person in this country. For years we have been the only industry in existence trying to survive running a business by buying our supplies and equipment retail and selling our product wholesale. For the past 20 years, while our costs steadily climbed our income was stagnant, but I don't recall that fact ever rating a front page article in your paper.
Consumers were perfectly content with that situation, while many farmers were giving up and selling their farms to developers to build lovely homes for other people, and the farms steadily declined. Unless fortunate enough to buy one through family as Lewthwaite's man did, no farmer can afford to buy a farm now strictly to farm unless he rents other ground to farm to supplement his income. And this is getting harder each year to do as the farm ground is fast being bought up by developers....

I don't think you will find many farmers in the business expecting to get rich; but the consumers must realize that if the farmers can't make enough profit to stay in business, and they continue to sell out at the rate they have in recent years, the consumers are going to pay even more, as the food abundance and variety they have been enjoying in recent years is going to dwindle away before their very eyes."

Wow. So much of this is still true today.

Atta girl Grannie! Thank you for raising my Mom right, because she learned from you and she raised me right. Thank you for encouraging and inspiring me. I just wish you were here so that I could tell you Happy Mother's Day.