The land and its people

Al Gustin

I’ve written before about Harvest Bowl, North Dakota State University’s (NDSU) annual celebration of agriculture and athletics. It’s always reassuring and reaffirming to hear NDSU star athletes talk about how being raised on a farm or ranch taught them responsibility, dedication and the value of hard work.

One of the speakers at this past Harvest Bowl mentioned “The Land and its People.” That’s the title of a book published in 1925. But it’s also a phrase sometimes used in the titles of what are called geography and culture books such as “East Germany, the Land and its People” or “Louisiana, the Land and its People.”

The speaker at Harvest Bowl was making a point about how blessed we are in this region, and how we are the envy of people in other regions, even other nations. First, he said, because of the land. We are part of the breadbasket of this nation. To the west are mountains and on the lee side of those mountains, deserts or arid regions. To the east lie many millions of wooded acres. But in the middle are the Great Plains and the Corn Belt. That’s where we are, blessed to have fertile soils, a temperate climate and, on average, sufficient moisture to raise bountiful grain crops and forage for livestock.

We are blessed, too, the speaker said, because of the people. Many of us are descendants of Eastern Europeans, Scandinavians, Germans from Russia and others who wouldn’t have come and stayed if they hadn’t been willing to sacrifice, work hard and take risks. They were innovators and entrepreneurs. That foundation of character is still evident.

And so, you could argue this region is as good as it is, as bountiful as it is, because of the land and its people. NDSU agriculture and athletics reflect that. As the speaker noted, we are fortunate, blessed, to live here.

One other thing. As I thought about the phrase, “the land and its people,” I couldn’t help but think how the connotation of that phrase is so different than the phrase “the people and their land.” Interesting. Worth considering, I think.

Al Gustin is a retired farm broadcaster, active rancher and a member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.