Jim French is a regional advocacy lead and an agricultural specialist for Oxfam America. He is also a fifth-generation farmer and rancher in south-central Kansas.
Last week, our friend Terry Steinhour died in a tractor accident while moving hay on his farm. Along with my colleagues Rasa Dawson and Katie Danko, I wanted to take a moment to remember Terry, a kind and gentle soul and a true advocate for Oxfam.
Oxfam America knew about Terry Steinhour before Terry knew much about Oxfam. In 2005, Oxfam field organizers were looking for American farmers that could become spokespeople in our campaign to reform US commodity subsidies. We searched in cotton and soybean fields, pastures, dairy barns, and sheep pens across the nation.
Terry Steinhour during his visit to Africa. Photo: Rasa Dawson / Oxfam America
Following a lead, Oxfam organizer Katie Danko reached out to a corn, soybean, and beef farmer outside of Springfield, Illinois. After a very short introduction during corn harvest, Terry had Katie behind the wheel of his combine.
“I had no idea what I was doing, and before I knew it too much corn went into the machine and stopped it cold. I thought it was broken,” recalls Katie.
But Terry gently handled the situation, cleaned out the stalks that plugged the header, and continued to build a wonderful relationship with Katie and the whole Oxfam team. In the next three years, Terry would write opinion pieces for area newspapers, meet with legislators, and take calls from radio interviewers from around the world.
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