Fall always evokes some of the strongest memories. Harvesting soybeans or corn. Family gatherings. And maybe the most indelible memory of all: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Don’t judge. As a child of the 1960s, connecting with the Peanuts Halloween television special was inevitable. A pumpkin patch lay right next to the old cabin on our family farm.
Countless hours of my youth were spent in that patch, working and playing. Every time I drive by a field tangled with leafy vines and dotted with orange gourds, I am instantly 8 years old searching for the perfect jack-o’-lantern. I don’t even try to fight the smile.
More than just memories reside in the pumpkin patch of my youth; rooted there are answers to many of life’s questions. How do you handle change? Just look at a pumpkin, and you will understand that each season brings its own treasures. One month it’s a fruit; the next it is art. What’s most important when forming a team? Connectivity. Look at how the pumpkins share a vine. And then there’s the biggie: What’s my purpose? For those in agriculture, there are many ways to approach this question. There is the grand answer: “Agriculture is society’s foundation,” the moral answer: “We are feeding the world,” and the practical answer: “This is how we provide for our families.” Each of these are true and reasonable.
And then there’s my answer. Which brings me back to the pumpkin patch.
We are all stewards of this earth. We do not own it; we merely pass through for a short time. Yet we are accountable.
A few weeks ago, the family gathered in North Carolina. The Buckner clan is spread across the Eastern Seaboard and into Canada, so these get-togethers are important for maintaining our family bond, especially as my four children grow into their late 20s and early 30s.
Soon after receiving welcome hugs and warm greetings, my 5-year-old grandson Johnny darted to my side to discuss whatever was running through his kid brain. Grandchildren are God’s way of showing you that — despite all your worries and frustrations — life really is simple and sweet.
Johnny is precocious and curious, so we decided to travel to the pumpkin patch at our North Carolina farm so that he could experience a Buckner tradition for the first time. Watching him explore brought an incalculable joy. Seeing life through his eyes, experiencing this moment of discovery again, brings instant clarity to my perspective.
In this life, there exists a basic human creed: pass onto your children better than what you received.
That’s my purpose, and that’s why I work at the Noble Research Institute.
Lloyd Noble established this organization with the desire to safeguard the soil and the land for future generations. He once said: “No civilization has outlived the usefulness of its soils. When the soil is destroyed, the nation is gone.” He believed these words, and so do I.
This generation has a fiduciary responsibility to pass on healthier soils and to protect the land. We are all stewards of this earth. We do not own it; we merely pass through for a short time. Yet we are accountable. We must shepherd and improve what has been given to us before handing it to those who will come next.
So I will continue to work toward this goal as will the men and women of this great organization, who share in the daily chore of making this simple belief a reality.
There is no final destination to our mission, just an ongoing pursuit to ensure that Johnny and every generation after him have the opportunity to watch their children play in pumpkin patches.