Lessons Learned from Wooly Worms

Posted on Dec 6, 2013

If your nose starts to itch, company is coming.

Deaths always happen in threes.

A spoon-shaped persimmon seed means a heavy snow is coming.

A full moon means to expect the cows to start calving.

 

A few months ago I was talking with a group of people and one person mentioned they had their wisdom teeth cut out the week before and had been having dry sockets. My immediate response was, “What part of the body was the sign in the day you had surgery?” Based on their facial expression, I could tell they didn’t understand signs as told by the Farmer’s Almanac (and likely thought I was some sort of mystic that practiced black magic).

My great grandmother got her hair cut by the signs so it wouldn’t grow as fast (and I’m thinking my first hair cut as a child must have been under the same sign).  My grandmother plants potatoes between the Full and New Moon. My dad once told me depending on the signs, if you dig a post hole you will either have too much or not enough dirt to fill in the hole. While I can’t say these are all true, there is one sign I swear by. When I was teaching and the moon the night before was full, I knew I better come to school the next day in full riot gear because the kids were going to be bouncing off the wall. Ask any teacher and see if they don’t tell you the same.

I have always been fascinated by the use of signs in planting crops, weaning calves, and determining when to potty train your children. In addition it seems there are hundreds of ways people in the country can tell what the seasons are going to bring. In all cases, what we are looking for is some kind of indicator to help us see what is coming.

The late 1990’s was when I first attended the Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Louisville. I will always remember sitting with my dad listening to the discussion about the book of resolutions up for adoption. At that time the debate related to the Tobacco section was substantial. Where would Farm Bureau land on the topics of buy outs and price support? While not everyone agreed on the best method, they all knew that what was decided would be the sign many others would base their actions on moving forward. Much like us looking for the signs to help us determine when we should get a tooth yanked out, the policies we adopt provide a sign to where agriculture is heading.

So often in other organizations (including our government at all levels) the direction changes with the leadership. What one governor may consider crucial may be tossed out in an administration change. But Farm Bureau continues to operate in a fashion where the direction is not determined by a few, but by that of people. Resolutions are not decided in a dark, smoke-filled room in the back of butcher shop. The initiatives are what the members at the county Farm Bureau develop.

I truly love the resolutions process. From county Farm Bureaus crafting their recommendations to the lively debate the delegates have on the floor during Annual Meeting, you can see the Voice of Kentucky Agriculture at work. When a delegate takes the floor and explains how a recommendation could keep their family farm from going under, you remember why this process is so vital. This is also why the process continues to be respected among agricultural and governmental bodies alike. Of course coming to a single stance on a topic isn’t always easy.

A few years ago I was walking outside my house and I saw two wooly worms not more than a foot apart crawling up a tree.  One was solid black (a sign of a harsh winter) and one was solid brown (a sign of a mild winter). In a moment of anguish I said out loud (which likely confused my neighbors), “You guys are going to have to come to some type of agreement here.” Strangely enough, I saw a wooly worm the next day half brown and half black, which makes me think they took my advice. But I wasn’t sure if it meant the first half or last half of winter was going to be bad, as the wooly worm dead and I didn’t know which end was the head… but I digress.

The ability to debate, and do so passionately, allows all angles of a topic to be seen. The way a policy could impact eastern Kentucky farmers, could look differently in the western part of the state. But at the end of the day decisions must be made on the basis of what will move Kentucky agriculture in the right direction. We may not always agree on the finer points of everything, but we must agree on the fact that policies printed in our book will not only affect agriculture, but other industries as well. I have a great deal of respect for all of those Farm Bureau members that submit resolutions at their county level, the advisory committees that review their respective sections of the policy book, the resolutions committee that looked over 864 recommendations this year, and the delegates for giving deliberate thought to each item presented.

Someone once told me the reason an Indian rain dance is effective is because the Indians don’t stop dancing until the rain starts. It’s true that when 3 cows calve during a full moon, I give credit to the astrology. But when 3 cows calve under a half moon, it’s just another day in the life of a farmer. The Farmer’s Almanac isn’t a book that you necessarily want to base your entire decision-making process on. But the Kentucky Farm Bureau Policy Book is the most powerful, consistent, and respected sign of the values and concerns of farm families in our Commonwealth – and you don’t need a lunar calendar or wooly worm to tell you that.

Brandon K Davis is the State Supervisor of Agricultural Education and serves as the Kentucky FFA Advisor for the KY Department of Education. By virtue of his position, Brandon is a member of the Kentucky Farm Bureau State Board of Directors, representing the interest of Career and Technical Education. He spent 5 1/2 years teaching agriculture at John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown before becoming the State FFA Advisor. He is a life-long agriculturalist who grew up on a family farm in Green County.

Tagged Post Topics Include: Annual Meeting, Grassroots, KFB, Louisville, Resolutions, The Farmers' Almanac