“Science, pie and leadership”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thomas Jefferson (A sentence from the Declaration of Independence)

Amazing words of power…world changing words…written by a Revolutionary leader at age 33.

April 13 happens to be the birthday of Thomas Jefferson. I know this because I have a “smart phone”. I have a really smart because it posted Jefferson’s birthday on my activities calendar, knowing full well that I would care! How did it know?

In case you don’t remember Thomas Jefferson, let me refresh your memory. He was this guy born in 1743, third child to a wealthy plantation family, studied and read, becoming very well educated… highly successful lawyer…Governor of Virginia…author of a little document called the Declaration of Independence (written in a mere 17 days)… and he was just getting started!

Jefferson served as the First Sec. of State of the United States…served as Ambassador to France…served as Vice- President under President John Adams ...served as the 3rd President of the United States…doubled the size of the Country with the purchase of the Louisiana territory for 15 million dollars…created the University of Virginia…was an agricultural scientist at Monticello.  He passed away at age 82 on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence…July 4th, 1826. (The same day that his fellow patriot, sometimes friend and sometimes bitter rival John Adams died) Cue the Twilight Zone music.

I will let others debate the “more” controversial elements of President Jefferson’s life.

I am fascinated by Jefferson’s amazing ability to communicate as well as his passion for the science of Agriculture. Jefferson is an inductee into the National Agriculture Hall of Fame, one of 39 such recognized Agriculturalists for this Recognition (Yes…there is a National Agriculture Hall of Fame located in Bonner Springs, Kansas.)  Ps. There have been no Rohrers  mistakenly placed in the “Hall”.

As an “Agricultural Scientist”, Jefferson was a big supporter of independent farmers, agricultural education, improved plant and animal breeding, and soil fertility improvement.  He is also credited with inventing and improving farm innovations including an early version of the moldboard plow.

HAPPY 272nd BIRTHDAY, Mr. President and Mr. U.S. Agricultural Science Pioneer!

Jefferson and others involved with the Colonial revolution were amazing thinkers, writers, and visionaries. Think about today’s politicians. Where have all our orators in elected office gone? Where have all of the free thinkers gone that understand the basis of the United States Declaration of independence and the subsequent document…the US Constitution?  And how do we teach the next generations about these important guiding principles of our Country so that the principles of freedom and liberty will be cherished for centuries to come? I have questions but no answers.

In Illinois, we seem to have a Historical situation. WWJD? (What Would Jefferson Do?)

Obviously, there’s not much to cheer for when it comes to the state of Illinois budget and related financial issues. We continue to be faced with greater expense liabilities, spending, greater deficits, potential taxes from all sides and a seemingly steady exodus of citizens as they relocate to states that are more citizen or business “friendly”.

Cook County Farm Bureau members had the opportunity, during a recent Legislator Reception in Springfield, to chat with a number of our elected State Senators and Representatives. While there are a number of bills that are proposed in the legislative process this Spring, the state of finances of the Government was center stage in all conversations occurring at that event.  I noticed that most of the conversations on the topic were lacking in solutions and enthusiasm…Legislators love to give money  and help constituents  but most have a difficult time when it comes to cutting and sacrifice.

When you have a difficult issue which you really don’t want to address, the easiest plan (I didn’t say best plan)  is to ignore the issue and find something benign and non-controversial to champion…a distraction from the big issue.  Fortunately, we found the perfect bill to generate positive enthusiasm…HB 208 designates Pumpkin Pie as the official state pie of Illinois.

Why pumpkin pie? Illinois continues to be the leading producer of pumpkins in the United States and pumpkin pie is more appealing than a moldy jack-o-lantern. And what’s not to like about pumpkin pie, especially slathered with Illinois fresh whipped cream. I’m starting a rumor that it was President Jefferson’s favorite dessert. Let’s get behind this big issue General Assembly…we expect 100% bi-partisan support for our official state dessert!

And then after celebrating passage this important piece of public social legislation, please take a moment to work on fixing this State’s finances by getting to the serious business of quality Legislating and Leadership.  We could certainly use a “Jefferson” right now in State government…a master thinker, leader, patriot, and “Hall of Famer”!


Thank you to all of the members, volunteers, staff and partners of CCFB who helped, supported, participated and made fun our participation in the recently concluded Chicago Flower and Garden Show. It was great interacting, meeting new friends, answering questions and generating additional excitement in the world of urban agriculture.