National Ag Day holds a special meaning in my heart. As a ninth-generation farmer trying to preserve the farm for my 10th generation farm kids — who also have the inherited love for the land and livestock — I understand far too well that farming is not glamorous, glorified or easygoing. It is absolutely not for the faint of heart.
Guided by science, knowledge and experience; the farmer will faithfully place the seed in the freshly prepared fertile soil or place semen in the fruitful female without truly knowing the real outcome — investing time, resources and sweat equity every day. Yet, the voyage from the first seed implanted to the harvest is not without challenges. Mother Nature has the candid way to keep the farmer humble, and frankly so does the consumer.
Every single person walking on this planet participates in the world of agriculture. It does not matter the label supported by their spending dollars — traditional, organic, all-natural or antibiotic-free — the raw product for food and other valuable non-food items starts on a farm somewhere.
Agriculture has always been the backbone of the United States. The harvests of the farmers’ work would not be complete without the entire agriculture community. More than 21 million American workers (15% of the United States workforce) play an essential role in getting food and other products from the farm to the consumer. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the output of America’s farms — only 2% of the U.S. population — contribute $177.2 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product with America’s pig farmers contributing $35 billion of this sum. On a whole, agriculture and agriculture-related industries contributed $835 billion to the U.S. GDP, a 4.8% share.
Still, I think too often we lose focus of the sacrifices the farmer truly makes every day, especially when you call the concrete jungle home. The hours spent alone cultivating the fruits of their labor would make the average employee quit in the first week, maybe the first day. The large sums of money put upfront for the costs of inputs would make most business savvy reject merely on the risk factor alone. Honestly, that is the real reason younger farmers are precious commodity and several generations are now removed from the farm today. The fact today’s farmer produces 262% more food with 2% fewer inputs and 12% less agriculture land only illustrates their dedication to people and planet. In spite of that, farmers — young and old, male and female — roll up their sleeves against all odds and take the task personally because it is really not work but actually a lifestyle, letting the passion lead them.
I welcome National Ag week, March 13-19, and the special day, March 15, set aside to celebrate the wonderful world of agriculture. However, I strongly believe the real way to celebrate the dedicated and hardworking farmers is being very thankful for the safe, abundant and affordable food we consume. Let's also celebrate today’s agriculture by openly supporting the freedom to farm by being educated consumers, learning and understanding the farming practices and embracing the new technology that advance the ability for the agriculturalists to produce more with less without sacrificing natural resources.
God bless America’s pig farmers and the entire farming community — without you I would be hungry, cold and homeless.