Christine Vanek, a high school student from Ann Arbor, Mich., was chosen the 2010 winner of the annual AgDay Essay Contest. Vanek, who presented her winning essay at Thursday evening's AgDay dinner in Washington, DC, received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her presentation. As winner of the contest, she also was awarded a $1,000 check. The annual AgDay Essay Contest is sponsored by CHS Inc., Country Living Association, Agriculture Council of America,
High Plains Journal,National Association of Farm Broadcasters, McCormick Company, National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) and the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). What follows is the text of Vacek's winning essay.
As we drive west with the setting sun through the last miles of Iowa, I stare out my window in awe. The fields stretch uninterrupted to the horizon, and the sky is a beautiful abundance of fading blue. I know that I am almost home.
Although my family lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, our roots are anchored deep in the Nebraska soil. My appreciation for the importance of American agriculture comes from my experience out at my grandparents' farm. I remember as a small child riding in the tractor with my grandpa as he disked a field in preparation for planting, folding the old corn stalks from last year's crop into the dirt. I remember going along with him one fall in the combine, fascinated at the machine's ability to get the ears off the stalk and the corn off the ears, shooting the kernels into the storage space and spitting out the unusable remainder.
At the age of seven, my mind could not grasp the abundance that is American agriculture. I could not comprehend the space of even one field, which itself was granted my awe. At seventeen, I have come to admire the work that my grandfather and all American farmers do. It is thanks to the abundance of American agriculture - from the corn, soybean and wheat fields of the Great Plains to the expansive fruit orchards in the South - that I, along with the rest of the country, have access to a wide variety of affordable, safe, nutritious foods.
I am thankful as well for the affordability of agriculture in America. My ancestors came to America less than two hundred years ago to escape forced service in the Czechoslovakian army. They did not have a large amount of wealth, but due to the affordability of American agriculture, they were able to build a small house and begin their own modest farm. Living frugally and working the land with dedication, they built up a life and livelihood for themselves in America.
I am a product of American agriculture, and I can testify to its greatness. This spring, I was walking to the pivot in the field on my grandparents' farm, when I stopped to tie my shoe. As I stood back up, I looked at the scene around me, taking it in in a way I hadn't while I was walking. I have experienced no more perfect a moment in my life than standing there with the sun warming my back, looking out at that vast, intensely blue sky with the deep green corn plants stretching for miles beneath it.