Editor of the Iowa Soybean Review

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Rural Route 2: Never miss a performance

February 5, 2024 | Bethany Baratta

There’s a new coffee cup gracing my cubicle desk. It’s fire engine red with FDNY (short for Fire Department of the City of New York) written in bold white letters. It’s a souvenir I purchased during a recent visit to New York City.

But this 10 oz ceramic cup holds more than the coffee inside. It’s a reminder to me of the city’s use of biofuels in everything from firetrucks (biodiesel) to homes (Bioheat®).

More than that, though, it’s a reminder of the conversations and the connections farmers made as they traversed the city by bus to various conference rooms to learn about how the soybeans they grow on the farm are being transformed into a fuel that’s helping cities realize their carbon reduction goals.

Why an FDNY mug? The short answer is because the FDNY Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 mugs were sold out shortly before Christmas, and this was available at a souvenir shop nearby. The long answer: New York City Fire Department Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 graciously hosted our group for a meet-and-greet and dessert reception at their firehouse. They call themselves the Pride of Midtown. Their tagline: Never missed a performance. It’s appropriate as it's situated in Times Square, near Broadway.

Meant to show the firetrucks and celebrate the department's use of biodiesel in the Big Apple, it was also eye-opening for those of us who don’t live in New York, and who aren’t familiar with the brotherhood that exists within the nation’s largest fire department.

Just inside the secured door and along one wall — no photos allowed — hang the portraits of 15 firefighters who never returned after leaving for duty. All 15 firefighters on shift responded when the first plane struck the first of the Twin Towers — just 1 mile away — at 8:46 a.m. on 9/11.

No firehouse was hit harder than Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9. The firehouse day-of duties are still memorialized on a whiteboard. Generations of those who passed that day now work for this same department.

The visit to the firehouse is one I’ll never forget. On one side: the row of desserts, a memorial to fallen firefighters, a hanging dinner bell, and a row of heavy black waterproof coats. On the other side of the lockers: garage doors opening, aerial ladder trucks making their way back from a call, a decorated Christmas tree, and farmers talking to firefighters. I got to thinking about the legacies we hope to leave, the impacts places and faces leave on us, and being grateful for it all.

In this new year, I hope to learn more about the legacies on your farm. To whom do you credit your farm’s success? What do you hope to leave the next generation? Drop me a line or give me a call, I’d love to hear from you.