For the past month, my days and evenings have revolved around being CCO – chief cheerleading officer – for my son’s spinal cord injury recovery and rehab. The self-appointed position involves doctor and therapist visits and discussions around a host of medical matters I’m acutely unqualified to comprehend.      

To step up my CCO game, my husband and I recently attended a lecture at Craig Hospital to learn more about spinal cord injury research. Our son, daughters, my parents, uncle and two cousins, who were visiting Colorado, headed out for tacos. While I would have preferred the tacos and their company, I gripped my notebook, pen and can of sparkling water and decided the lecture was the utmost importance to our son’s future after he suffered a severe spinal cord injury in late December.

Katie Pinke, Agweek publisher
Katie Pinke, Agweek publisher

We took a seat in the room with 12 other people. As Dr. Dan Lammertse, a leader in spinal cord injury restorative research and former medical director of Craig Hospital, spoke, I looked around the room. All eyes were glued on Dr. Lammertse. Many people were taking notes, but others couldn’t do so because of their injuries.

I felt unqualified to be there. I am a rural mom in a city, blindly walking through a new journey. I hoped my husband, who has biology and chemistry degrees, could ask the right questions.

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Shortly into his presentation, Dr. Lammertse said something that put my worries about being ill-equipped at ease and helped me make a connection between two of my current worlds. For the past 20 years or more, there has been more focus on biology in spinal cord injury research and trials versus technology. Now, there is more emphasis on technology.

As an agriculturalist, I understood. We cannot limit what’s in farmers’ toolboxes.

Dr. Lammertse went on to explain there needs to be more focus on the evidence. After a specific treatment is proven safe, does it work? 

In a light-bulb moment, I connected my knowledge and understanding of agriculture to spinal cord injury research. I understand and recognize the need for a variety of crops, seed choices, seed treatments, growth inhibitors, fertilizers, crop protection products and more in agriculture. We need biology and technology. We need technology to collect and analyze data on our equipment, for example, to increase efficiencies, yields and even our well-being.

In agriculture, we’re seeking to grow more food and fiber on less land with fewer resources. A combination of biology and technology forges our future in agriculture — and allows me to get a glimpse of our son’s spinal cord injury rehab and recovery journey and the research opportunities ahead. 

As I shared with my husband after the lecture, I felt the attendees, including us, hung on to every one of Dr. Lammertse’s words, clinging to hope for a cure. In agriculture, we can pour into our crop mix strategy and mind every detail from planting through harvest, but ultimately Mother Nature is in charge. Farmers and ranchers pray for rain. We pray for sunshine. 

My knowledge of spinal cord research is the equivalent of a grain of sand compared with Dr. Lammertse’s ocean of knowledge and expertise. Despite the odds of science, miracles still happen. A greater force is in charge. Is it Mother Nature, as we like to say in agriculture? I attribute it to an all-powerful God. 

We need biology and technology in our toolbox. We cannot and should not restrict the future of research, whether it be in growing more food for a global population or creating a cure in medicine. Even with a toolbox full of options, we keep praying for unexplained miracles.

 Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.