Agriculture January 01, 2021
This Is John Deere
Reflecting on 125 Years
2020 has been a difficult year; a derecho in the Midwest, wildfires in the West, hurricanes in the South, social unrest throughout the country and a global pandemic that has sadly taken over a million lives worldwide.
A colleague recently said to me that this is the most challenging time we as a people and a company have had to endure. While I agree it has been tough, (I have lost friends to COVID-19), I reminded the person that we as a company have endured far greater. Deere has been around for over 180 years. In over 180 years we’ve endured Civil War that ended slavery in the U.S., World Wars I and II, and the Great Depression. And while today holds grief, sadness and uncertainty, I am confident in our future.
That conversation reminded me that we all experience the passage of time differently. Some of us are overwhelmed by the uncertainty of today. Some of us long for the good old days; for simpler times and the nostalgia of days gone by. Others are troubled by the present and anxious about the future. Still others are thankful for the progress of today and look with anticipation to the promise of tomorrow.
The Furrow just celebrated 125 years. When I reflect on the last 125 years, personally, I can’t help but think about how far my family has come. While I was born and reared in Detroit, Michigan, I grew up in a family with strong agricultural roots. My father grew up helping his family farm and share crop in the segregated south in rural Alabama as the 14th of 16 children.
My father was a generous, loyal, hard- working, and discerning man who could not stomach injustice. He got that from his father Arthur Howze who was born in 1893, two years before The Furrow debuted.
Shortly after my birth, my father moved my grandparents Arthur and Versie Howze to Detroit where we all lived in a two-family flat. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my grandfather. As a child, I often walked with a limp because he walked with a limp after being struck with a fireplace poker as a young man for some minor infraction.
My grandfather was an honorable man with an impeccable reputation who loved his family and, despite growing up in the long shadow of slavery, he always seemed to have a long view of the future. He had an abiding faith which always gave him hope for tomorrow. He knew, despite the current situation, that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”
He understood that despite the day-to-day indignities he had to endure, the social and economic segregation, the constant and real threat of violence for something as benign as trying to cast a vote, he could not allow anger, frustration or despair to overtake him. Thankfully, he also instilled that hope and enduring spirit in his children. I can hear him say, “Envy not the oppressor and choose not of his ways.” “Let us not be weary in well doing for in due season, we shall reap if we faint not.”
My grandfather taught by both precept and practice. I am reminded of a story my father told me about him and my grandfather. In Jim Crow south, blacks were second class citizens and had very few, if any, rights that others were bound to respect. My father would witness the humiliation and demeaning treatment inflicted upon his father.
Even as a boy, this angered my father and he finally asked my grandfather why my grandfather allowed those people to treat him that way. My grandfather responded, ”I’m trying to keep you alive, grow you up and get you out of here. The things that I have to take, you won’t have to take. And the things you take, your son won’t have to take and the things your son takes, his son won’t have to take and eventually we won’t have to take anything at all.”
As I reflect on today and the last 125 years, I recognize that we are living in turbulent and uncertain times. I realize the promise of “liberty and justice for all” hasn’t been fully achieved. But I’m also reminded of something our elders would say, “trouble don’t last always.”
So, as we celebrate 125 years of The Furrow, let us reflect on how far we have come, enjoy the fruit of trees planted by generations past and redouble our efforts to make the future even brighter for generations to come!
Head to Heart
Passion evolves from books to the field.
Faces of The Furrow
For 125 years, The Furrow has told the story of agriculture, and the stories of agriculture.