You can tell that I have a real heart for environmental protection. I am even recycling blog posts now.

In all seriousness though, the last couple of weeks have been extremely busy. As I write this it’s past 8pm and I am in a hotel room deep in the heart of Texas trying to play catch-up for two weeks spent on the road. I enjoy the chance to get out and visit with people about how they can both adapt to and mitigate climate change and how USDA programs (and the programs of our partners) can help them deal with a multitude of natural resource challenges, but between road trips, 4-H speech contests, youth basketball games and farm chores, it can get tough to actually find the time to write down your thoughts. 

On top of all this, Thanksgiving is this week! We all know the stress of the holidays. Time is tight under the best of circumstances, let alone when the schedule is already packed.

With all of this in mind, I hope you will forgive me for “recycling” part of my Thanksgiving post from last year. After all, what I wrote then still holds true today. I promise I will sit down and write something original next week! Understanding all this, here again is what I am thankful for.

First and foremost, I am thankful for the relationships in my life. My family, my friends, my colleagues—many of which are all in the same. It’s their love and support that has allowed me the opportunity to do what I do. They have provided me help and wisdom to navigate the hard times and they have been with me to celebrate the good times. 

First among those relationships is my wife and our children. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work in partnership with my wife going all the way back to our days at the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. She is the “city girl” that married the “farm boy” and blended together the love that we both share for the environment and for the people who live and work on the land. She is truly my love. I am so thankful that I have a partner like her helping me in all things; that includes what I believe is the most important work we could do-helping folks feed and clothe a growing world while protecting our natural resource base. 

Our kids are a blessing for sure–all of them are incredible individuals full of amazing potential and ability. I only hope that I can do for them a fraction of what my parents did for me, both in the lessons I teach them and the world that I leave behind for them to inherit.

Speaking of parents–I am thankful for mine. They gave (and still give) me love and they taught (and still teach) me lessons about life. They instilled in me a work ethic that has given me the ability to take on anything life throws my way. They guided me in finding a faith that gives me hope in knowing that all things will work out in the end and that all things happen for a reason. They instilled in me a love for the land and for our home. Their love started me on this path and has given me the chance to play a small part in dealing with climate change and the challenges it creates.

I am thankful for grandparents that were always there with a love that I can never truly explain. They showed me through their examples of how that faith I mentioned before can play out over time. I learned first-hand lessons from them on how to overcome adversity while holding on to what’s most important.

I am thankful for the opportunity to work with folks at USDA and their local and state partners — from the Secretary on down — who recognize the challenges farmers and ranchers face both environmentally and economically and who are dedicated to helping agriculture find solutions to keep producers profitable while protecting our natural resources.

I am thankful for the chance to work with farmers and ranchers around the region and nation. Working on the land isn’t easy, but like the FFA creed says,” I believe that to live and work on a good farm or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.” I am thankful that I cannot deny my ties to American agriculture and I am thankful that I get this small chance to help the industry deal with the challenges posed by the changing climate.

And when it comes to climate change and the challenges it creates, I’m thankful that many of the solutions we are proposing are often the same things that we are suggesting farmers and ranchers consider to improve their bottom lines. Helping folks with positive solutions makes this work a joy even though we are dealing with what seems like monumental issues.

Finally, I am thankful that all things are interconnected. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and in the end, we are all connected in ways we don’t truly understand. I believe that all of nature, and that includes mankind and our society, is part of a vast moving machine with each piece having a part to play as it drives forward toward its intended destination. I am thankful that I have the chance to help keep those gears rolling.

To again quote the FFA creed “I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.”

For my part in all that, I am truly thankful.

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