“Nothing brings a community together like their team making it to the high school basketball state championship game. Rural communities can get pretty serious about their sports. They are also very serious about their agriculture. Community pride and agriculture go very seamlessly together, and you almost can’t have one without the other.” 

This article originally posted here, in the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal by Holly Martin.

It was the state 1A, Division II championship basketball game—two small town teams battling in a big arena. The last time the two teams played was in the state championship game last year: Wallace County, Sharon Springs vs. St. John’s, Beloit-Tipton. To say the feeling was electric, was to diminish the excitement.

The previous year, St. John was able to win by two points. The rematch had all the makings of a good sports story.

I, however, am not a sports writer. I write about agriculture, and that’s where I saw more going on at the game than the 3-point shots and steals.

A few rows below me, the Wallace County student section was going wild. They had crazy blue wigs, neon zebra print headbands and signs—the kind of signs that said things like, “Hammer Time!” in support of my friends’ son who just happens to have the last name “Hammer.”

Seed Sign at Basketball Game

As they waved the signs at the court, I laughed. Not because of the clever saying on the front of the sign, but because of the back of the sign. It was a seed sign that had been repurposed.

If that doesn’t scream small-town, rural-living at its best, I don’t know what does.

On the court were two teams from small towns in Kansas. By day, the boys go to school, play sports and horse around with their friends. By night, they feed pigs, breed cattle and plant sorghum or wheat or corn. They lift weights, but they lift seed sacks as well. They run drills on the court, but they run wheat drills in the field. They study game film, but they also study cattle pedigrees.

The families in the stands drove back and forth to the games every day, not because they wanted to—but because everyone wanted to go to the game and there were farm chores to do. And while they were at it, they stopped in the big towns along the way to pick up parts, supplies and seed.

And the hometowns? It was rumored anyone could have stolen anything in the county he wanted the day of the championship game—because there surely wasn’t anyone around to see it stolen.

At halftime, cheerleaders from Greeley County High School performed. They didn’t have a dog in the hunt because Wallace County had defeated them to advance to the state playoffs. They didn’t have to stick around. And they certainly didn’t have to join their neighboring county rivals in the stands, cheering them on. But they did. And I’m sure there were similar stories on the other side of the court.

It never ceases to amaze me how agriculture and community go hand-in-hand. A sense of community pride is so interwoven into the agriculture industry, it is hard to separate the two.

When you grow up in community, where generations of your family have tended the land, and your neighbors have done the same, there’s a bond that cannot be denied. When you grow up being taught to respect God’s creation, and what it will provide, you can’t help but have the same respect for a community across the state.

In the end, the seed sign did the trick, and Wallace County came out on top this year, winning its first-ever state boys’ basketball championship. As medals and trophies were passed out, applause on both sides of the court for both teams showed more about community respect and pride than the score.

When our friends from urban areas wonder what is so important about rural America and keeping it viable, I vote we send them to a 1A state championship basketball game and hand them a seed sign.

Holly Martin can be reached at 1-800-452-7171, ext. 1806, or hmartin@hpj.com.