St. Paul’s quote, “The husbandman that laboreth must be the first partaker of the fruits,” is cut in stone above the main entrance to the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington DC. Only one person I have talked to over the years in the USDA has known about the quote or where it was located on the building. Yesterday, my friend Greg Gunthorp and I met that person. She was a young security officer at the main entrance. She said the quote was right outside above the entrance, but she didn’t know what it meant. “What is a Husbandman,” she asked?
Greg and I informed her that a Husbandman was a farmer, and the fruits are what the farmer provides to us in the way of food, care of our animals, and stewardship of our land. We explained that today, the farmer and rancher were not being paid their cost of production, let alone being the first partaker of the fruit, like St. Paul said should happen. We explained that people who build houses, auto mechanics, and others who labor, are protected by laws that give them a first lien on the fruits of their labor, but farmers no longer have such protection and are being forced out of business by big corporations that are running our government. These corporations have repealed, rewritten and redefined our laws so they can cheat the farmer. We explained that more and more we are depending on foreign food from global food companies instead of food from our own farmers.
The young security officer was moved nearly to tears, and had to take a moment. Perhaps she was thinking about farmers and their families, or where she would get food in the future. Maybe she will wonder how different our country could be if farmers were paid a living income.
Hopefully, she will direct the many people who pass through her entrance, and a few of the over 100,000 people who work for us at USDA, what once was known as “The People’s Department”, to read and reflect on St. Paul’s message.