Radke Report: How a Southern shrimp boil made me appreciate South Dakota
This South Dakota cowgirl just ventured off the prairie and headed to Mississippi for a week of Southern hospitality. I was invited to speak at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s Summer Celebration.
This year marked 100 years of “faith, family and Farm Bureau,” and I thought the tag line was pretty fitting for the times we are living in.
Right now, we are seeing more tears in the fabric of society. Broken homes. Troubled and depressed kids. Political division. Cancel culture. Businesses closing. People struggling to make ends meet. Rising food and fuel prices. Increased rates of homelessness.
And the list goes on and on.
But you know what I think could solve many of these societal woes? A returned and renewed focus on the fundamental ideals and values that we hold dear.
That’s exactly what I found in the South as I toured Mississippi.
Visiting a Brahman seedstock producer’s home on the day of a huge female sale, I watched as three teenage cowboys prepared a full meal for a crowd. The shrimp boil was a huge success, thanks to these aspiring entrepreneurs, and it was so impressive to see them in action — their confidence and skills were evident as they passionately explained the culture and tradition surrounding the classic Southern shrimp boil with all of the fixings.
Later, I attended a cathedral in town. Young families were dressed up in their Sunday best to attend the church service. Children sang the hymns joyfully, and people gathered after the service to celebrate our shared faith. I was quickly invited into the fold, even as a tourist traveling in from South Dakota, and I delighted in getting to know the history of the church that dates back to the French Colonial days.
On my way back to the conference, I stopped at the beach of the Mississippi Gulf, and as I walked along the soft, white sand, I stopped to visit the ice cream truck parked on the shoreline. It was run by another entrepreneur, and the line was long for his sweet treats. It was a wonderful representation of Americana at its finest, and I couldn’t help but smile as I heard his truck playing its tune while families clamored to purchase his popsicles and ice cream cones.
Meanwhile, at the convention, hundreds of people gathered to learn more about agriculture and to connect in fellowship with new and old friends. Ideas were exchanged. A discussion meet challenged young minds as judges evaluated a robust debate of relevant agricultural topics. And it was incredible to see so many little kids in attendance alongside parents and grandparents. Every kid I met said “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am,” and were quick to shake my hand and engage in conversation.
If the trip sounds pretty awesome, well, just wait — I haven’t even started on the food yet! We were treated to a feast of oysters, shrimp, spotted trout, crab legs, steaks and racks of lamb. It seemed like about the time one meal ended, another one began, and I was reminded often that food is the center of Southern culture. It’s how they show their love, and I certainly felt the love on this trip.
Why do I share all of these highlights of the trip? Because sometimes you need to step away from home and experience someplace new to appreciate where you come from. And that’s exactly what I did while in Mississippi. Because at the end of the day, even though my home on the South Dakota prairie feels like another world compared to coastal living, at our core — we are all people wanting what is best for our families, our farms and the future of agriculture and society as a whole.
Friends, the media might claim that we have a lot of differences to bicker about, but I believe we have more in common than we think. I found faith, family and a love of farming halfway across the country, and I’m so grateful for the shared focus on planting good seeds and reaping a good harvest for future generations to thrive. May we all focus on doing exactly that.