Rooted in Tradition, Looking to the Future


There’s something moving about knowing you’re part of something that stretches beyond just the “here and now.” It’s that understanding of tradition that makes me proud to be a part of so many things. This weekend, I have a lot of things to consider in regards to tradition. Last night, I spent the evening celebrating my college’s 150th birthday at a gala. I wore a dress and heels and carried a clutch. (This is a huge deal.) Yesterday, I also made a point to share my appreciation of veterans, especially my older brother Andy. Each and every day, I spend at least some time working to create engagement for the trade I love, agriculture. All three of these things bring a combination of tradition and forethought to mind.

Looking to the past is fantastic. Being a part of something that spans beyond a generation or even a lifetime is moving. When we do so, though, we need to look at the potential for the future as well.

I’m incredibly proud of my school for its meticulous balance of these ideas. In a speech yesterday, our college’s president Dr. Hal Wilde gave a speech at the homecoming convocation. He said, “Today, we celebrate a promising start. Tomorrow, we get to work on keeping that promise for generations to come.” It’s a fantastic statement to what the campus community strives for.

I can't find any pictures to exemplify the school's culture or the magnitude of the celebration. However, it's a big enough deal that I dressed up for the occasion, so I'll share a picture of that. Over 2,300 people attended the gala last night, 800 of which were students.

North Central College has a fantastic culture of innovation. It is that tradition of forward thinking that helps make it such a successful, wholesome, and revolutionary establishment. While I’ve had my issues with the school, I don’t think I would have chosen anywhere else to fulfill my undergraduate career.

Yesterday was Veterans Day, as well as North Central College’s sesquicentennial. I spent a decent amount of time publicizing my appreciation for veterans, including a sentimental voicemail to my older brother. Andy served in the Navy for 8 years, and did a long deployment in Iraq with the SEABEEs. There, he dealt with combat situations but also spent a great deal of time building facilities to improve the lives of armed forces personnel and Iraqi victims of war. He helped construct bathrooms, kitchens, and barracks where they hadn’t existed before. He helped rebuild cities that were ravaged by terrorist attacks.

My brother, Andy, or as I call him, Brother Bear, running machinery in some Iraqi city whose name I can't recall or pronounce.

I’m proud of my brother. I’m proud of what the Navy did for him. I think back to all of the men and women who came before him in the SEABEEs, in the Navy, in the military as a whole, and I’m overwhelmed to think of how many people consciously made that decision to leave their comfort zone to partake in a service to their country. I’m moved by the amount of people who knowingly put themselves in harm’s way, and so many that made the ultimate sacrifice. “Thank you” does not suffice to show my gratitude to the countless many.

Even as policy continues to change, the military continues to downsize, and worldwide situations shift, I’m proud of my brother and where he’s gone in life. While he is no longer in the Navy, he’s still one of my heroes. The Navy played a massive part in building Andy into who he is today. He has a beautiful family that supported him through deployment, relocations, and the transition to civilian life. He and his wife, Holly, are raising two pretty fantastic, unique, charismatic kids. If that isn’t a promise for the future, I don’t know what is.

I’ve written here about the school I love and the veteran brother I love, and now I’ll write about the industry I love: agriculture. It’s the oldest trade, and has been a part of the human experience since the founding of civilization. From the domestication of the first livestock to the cultivation of the first crops, we have been relying on farmers since times before time. If you want to think about rich tradition, think about ag.

(If I had a picture of a caveman tending to some crops or some ancient ice people caring for their reindeer, I’d post it here. But I don’t have pictures of that…because, you know, they didn’t have cameras back then. Although, if they did, the photos would be creative commons by now and I could use it legally without copyright infringement!)

It’s not just the longevity of the trade that speaks to tradition. Agriculture, much like North Central College, has always had a culture of innovation. Since the first seeds were intentionally sown, farmers have been looking at their models and thinking of ways to improve productivity, land use, efficiency, and quality of product. Agriculture has given us so much, and while there have been bumps in the road, no one can deny that the desire to improve the human condition and the quality of work done.

While technology and methods may change over time, there are a few aspects to agriculture that have stuck around over many generations. Work ethic. Dedication. Passion. Family. A connection to the earth. A love of the outdoors. These are the things I think of first when I think of tradition in agriculture.

I’m lucky. I have the chance to be involved in so many great traditions. I also get to be surrounded by groups and individuals with a keen awareness of the future. For a young person, a developing professional, and a big thinking idealist, this is a wonderful environment to be a part of.

Your turn! What traditions are you a part of? What traditions speak to you most? How do these traditions stretch into the future and promote forward thinking? Share your tradition stories!

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8 thoughts on “Rooted in Tradition, Looking to the Future

  1. From Loren Gaylord Flaugh
    Primghar, Iowa

    Great job, Kelly! I’ve read your tribute piece twice.

    About your brother, Andy. What battalion did he serve with? Where was his homeport when he was in the states? How long were his deployments? What rate was he?

    I served in the Seabees from December of 1966 to December of 1972. While on active duty, I served with MCB – 5. The battalion went to Dong Ha, South Vietnam in 1968. While there, MCB – 5 was attached to the 3rd Marine Division.
    My homeport was Port Hueneme, California. My rate was a heavy equipment operator, E-3. I see a photo of your brother in a front end loader, it looks like. I suspect he was an EO, too.
    I worked on the roads in the area near Dong Ha, but mosting in an asphalt batch plant.

    • Hello sir! Thank you so much for reading and responding!

      Andy was E4 by the time he got out. He was talking about the E-5 test but it seemed like plans changed. I think a promotion would have meant another relocation and more time away from his family, so he chose to go civilian and move them to my hometown. You’re correct, he was an EO. While in California, his home port was Coronado (I’m not sure what battalion or other divisions he was tied to), until he was transferred to Fort Leonard Wood, where he was an A-School instructor for incoming EO’s.

      I’m not entirely sure what all he did in Iraq. I know he also worked with humvees, but most of what we heard had to do with construction and reconstruction work. We’re all pretty realistic that he withholds some of the grittier stories, but no matter what, we’re proud of him. Thank you very much for serving our country and for reaching out to me. It made my day and touched my heart.

      • Kelly,

        The mention that he went to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri intrigues me. I always thought that Fort Leonard Wood was an Army base where the Army trained their combat engineers. Combat engineers are basically the Navy version of Seabees.
        When I was at Port Hueneme in California, half our EO A-school class were Air Force enlisted men.

        Best wishes,

        Loren Flaugh

      • Hi again Loren!

        I’m not sure when the A-school moved to Fort Leonard Wood; I do know that Andy completed his A-school training there and went back as an instructor after his deployment. Whenever I mention that my brother, a member of the Navy, was stationed at Fort Lost-in-the-Woods, I hear about how it’s supposed to be an Army base, so I guess it’s a pretty unknown fact that that’s where some EO’s do A-school nowadays. Fort Leonard Wood is absolutely beautiful, though. I had the chance to visit Andy there while he was in A-school and then again when he and his family settled there after the deployment.

        Have a good one!

  2. Hello Kelly,

    While I was in the Seabees, I came to know a guy from a dairy farm between Millstadt and Belleville, Illinois. Joe Mayer was a St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan and that’s much of what I heard when we talked sports in the spring of 1968. Belleville is just east of St. Louis.
    Joe also talked endlessly about a kid from Belleville that he argued would one day become a tennis superstar. I think they went to the same school in Belleville and might have been in the same class. The kid he said would be a tennis phenom turned out to be the legendary Jimmy Connors. So, Joe knew what he was talking about.
    I was driving home to Iowa after finishing a project at a natural gas compressor station project in northeast Mississippi at Corinth. I looked up Joe and his dairy farm in the summer of 1971. Connors was a well known tennis player by then. Joe was doing chores when I drove on his farm late that afternoon.
    I talked to Joe quite a bit in 1988. That was twenty years after we came back from Vietnam. Joe and his dad had a 1500 head dairy herd by then.
    What was really special for them was when Joe told me that a delegation from the Russian farming industry had come to their dairy farm a year or two earlier, to learn how a modern American dairy farm was run. I could really sense the pride in his voice when he told me this. This must have been a couple of years before the Cold War ended and the old Soviet Union disbanded.
    I email Joe now and then just to keep in touch. Keeping in touch with old service buddies is something that your brother will have to look forward to.

    Best wishes and Happy Thanksgiving next week,

    Loren Flaugh

    • He proudly talks about the fact that his service buddies are still like family to him. He and his wife have kept in touch with many. It seems like Joe has a great operation, and is just one more instance of an admirable American farmer.

      You have a lovely Thanksgiving and thank you so much for the support and encouragement you’ve offered here!

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