I'd like to share with you folks this little story which underscores the point of this week's column.

A city slicker was driving along in the country when he stopped at a farm house to ask for directions. Finding the farmer sitting on the front porch, the slicker engaged him in conversation.

"Excuse me," said the slicker, "can you tell me the way to get into town?"

"Yep," came the farmer's reply.

"Can I get there using the road which runs past your place?" the slicker asked.

"Yep," the farmer replied once more.

What a hick, the slicker thought, but instead he asked: "Will I be able to make it before nightfall?"

"Yep," the farmer said.

"Thanks. Ah, would you happen to have change for a nine-dollar bill?" the slicker asked slyly.

"Yep," came the farmer's reply.

The slicker thought 'What a hick!' when the farmer went into the house to get the money.

"Did you managed to find change for a nine?" the city-slicker asked when the farmer returned.

"Yep," came the farmer's reply. "Six and a three be OK?"

In my opinion, farmers are a group of people who do not get enough recognition in life. Some misinformed people tend to see themselves as superior to these folks, but farmers have the courage and tenacity to take on a very tough job which is probably the most important in the world.

Although most of us are important in some special way, the farmer is most important of all. Although humanity could get by without journalists, electricians, musicians - and even politicians - it would be hard pressed to survive without someone to provide our food. Without the farmer, mankind would have to go back to being hunters and foragers, going from place to place to find food.

I recall one time having a conversation with a farmer, in which he told me that the people of his profession are eternal optimists. I have to agree. Despite the fact the previous summer had experienced a severe drought, coupled with a very dry winter, he insisted there would be enough rain to grow crops that year. I have to admire such tenacity in people. Rather than giving up, or predicting "doom and gloom" this fellow had the spirit and drive to continue, even though the situation with the weather had not been good.

I've often said that I could not be a farmer. This is not, however, because I don't admire these folks. It's simply because I don't have the character and the drive necessary to gamble against so many variables which might affect my livelihood.

For example, when a farmer plants crops he must depend on good weather each season for his livelihood. Not enough rain can cause crops to dry up, while too much rain can cause them to rot in the fields. If too many farmers produce too much of a particular crop, they can watch the prices of their goods plummet to the point where it wasn't worth the effort to plant them the previous spring. And if a farmer raises livestock, he can watch a whole investment wiped out because of disease.

Farmers must have a love of the land unequaled by all other people. Farmers have to be willing to work the land in order for it to produce, and reshape the land in order for it to produce profitably. They have to get up before first light to being work, and often cannot stop until long after dark. Along with being able to drive a tractor, most farmers have to have some knowledge of chemistry, biology, and animal husbandry, just to name a few items.

And all this to put food on the table of every man, woman and child in the country. So if you hear ever someone make an unkind comment about a farmer's intelligence or lifestyle, remember, there's nobody in this world smarter than a "dumb" farmer.