By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE- Farmers, students and business leaders came together Tuesday morning to celebrate National Farm-City Week with the annual Farm-City Breakfast hosted by the Noon Rotary, Farm Bureau and the Putnam County UT Ag Extension Office. Congressman-elect John Rose was the guest speaker for the event.
The Farm-City Breakfast is held annually on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to celebrate the business of farming in Putnam County.
Putnam County Extension Agent Wayne Key shared that the economic impact of farming in Putnam County is $11.5 million in sales with $2.67 million in crops and $8.8 million in livestock. There are 898 farms in Putnam spread over 95,000 acres with the average farm being 107 acres. There are 304 full-time farmers and the average age is 58.5 years old. All data is from the most recent Census of Agriculture.
Congressman-elect Rose is a native of Cookeville with a strong agricultural background. He has a bachelors in Agribusiness Economics from TTU, a masters in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University and a law degree from Vanderbilt University. He is the eighth generation of his family to operate the family farm in Lancaster, that is a part of the original farm deeded to his family in 1790.
Rose’s message about Farm-City Week and life had three main points.
Always expect the unexpected. Rose shared that he learned this lesson on the farm when he was out working with his father. While working on a hill above where Rose was working, his father had a flat tire on the tractor. After rolling a new tire up the hill and changing it, he called out to Rose to catch the tire and put it in the back of the truck, then rolled the tire down towards him. As that tire rolled down the hill, it took a different direction with each rock that it encountered picking up speed. Soon it became obvious that the point was just to not be hit by the tire. After the tire hit the side of the truck his father asked why he didn’t just kick it over.
“So, expect the unexpected,” offered Rose. “I expect with my new job that those challenges will come, and we must be ready to respond to them.”
Rose’s second bit of advice was to establish and lean on core values. As the first Congressman elected from Cookeville and now a freshman representative in a newly elected Republican minority, his path in Washington may be a little different than he had hoped but his values remain the same.
“My goal is to take Tennessee values to Washington and get Washington out of Tennessee,” added Rose. “There are going to be lavish events. There are going to be extraordinary privileges. They come to all of us in one form or another, and so we have to mindful of where we come from. And we have to look past the gilded ornaments that we see in front of us and keep our minds on what we are supposed to accomplish in life.”
He spoke of having his young son at home and how changing diapers reminds him about life, reminds him about the values he was raised with, and why he decided to run for Congress.
“We are at risk of leaving this country worse off than our parents left it to us,” Rose said. “If we do that, we will be the first generation in the history of this country to do so. So, we have a big task in front of us. And that is to turn this thing around and make sure that the country we leave for the next generation and the generations after that is better than the country left for us.”
The nation’s debt and infrastructure are main concerns.
“Many in the rural counties of 6thdistrict are concerned with having a four-lane highway to the interstate but a four-lane highway to an overcrowded interstate really doesn’t take you where you expect it will.”
Rose has shared with the House leadership his desire to serve on the Agriculture, Transportation & Infrastructure and Financial Services committees where he feels he could do the most to help his district.
The last point of Rose’s speech was that “you have to risk it for the biscuit.” He emphasized that you miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take.
He wanted to be a farmer but needed a fallback, so he became a lawyer. He spoke of starting a business with friends but taking a job as a lawyer in Chattanooga because he needed the feeling of security that he didn’t have with a fledgling company.
After one year, Rose was more confident in the business and he stepped out, leaving his law practice with the safe, secure income to take the risk, moving back to the farm and being in business full time. Lots of people at the time felt like he was accepting defeat, making the decision to come home, but it was a good decision.
“You’ve got to take big risks if you want to be successful,” said Rose. “And often times the bigger the risk, the more uncertain the path you choose, the more success that it will bring you.”
Rose shared the observation that in farming as in politics, you can do all the right things and sometimes things still don’t turn out the way you plan for them to.
“You have to savor the good times and learn from the bad,” added Rose.
Rose concluded with a story about his high school sheep business. Rose raised sheep on a couple of acres leased from Houston Boyd just off 6th Street in Cookeville. He had to mend relationships with some of the neighbors that weren’t too happy with sheep next door. When he applied for an FFA award it was rejected because people couldn’t believe that he lived in a subdivision in town and was raising sheep there.
“We live in a country that has the most abundant, safest, cheapest supply of food in the history of humankind,” concluded Rose. “As we go into this week of Thanksgiving, take a moment to pause and think about that and what it brings to you and be thankful for that. Reflect also on your life’s harvest and be thankful on this day and this time of thanksgiving.”