Every January since 1906, the stock show and rodeo come to town, and most years I try to go. You can walk amongst the pens where sows are nursing squealing piglets, and perfectly-coiffed cows, waiting to be auctioned off, stare back at you with their bovine innocence. There’s a rodeo with calf roping and barrel racing and standing ovations for war heroes, and you can wander through booths selling everything from industrial-grade farm equipment to overhyped products peddled on late-night infomercials.
I’m always humbled when I go to the stock show because it reveals how little of the full picture I see: all the steps and people and orchestration needed to produce a package of glistening beef in the supermarket or an Amazon package at our front doors or the gas pumped into our cars. We’ve specialized and compartmentalized our way into a modern-day nearsightedness that consistently misses how interwoven our world is.
Wendell Berry says we need to start by returning to the soil: “The soil is the great connector of lives,” he writes. It is “the source and destination of us all.”