I grew up a city kid. My idea of where food came from was the local A&P grocery store. Occasionally, we’d visit my uncle’s farm “out in the country,” where he grew strawberries, vegetables and enough grain to feed his animals. My mother still has a photograph of me riding a pony at the farm.
In elementary and middle school, we learned about farmers and agriculture in a variety of ways – art, geography, and music, to mention a few. In eighth grade we were required to study “natural resources” for six weeks in our state history class, and I can remember a fair amount about the then-mainstays of our state’s economy – petroleum and agriculture. (It’s interesting I ended up working in both industries, but not in my home state.)
I attended school when teachers required students to memorize things, like a Shakespeare soliloquy (12th grade), the multiplication tables (3rd grade), and occasionally a poem. This one by Ralph Waldo Emerson became famous for one particular line, “…and fired the shot heard round the world.”
Pop quiz: Do you know who (in the poem) fired the shot heard round the world?
|by Ralph Waldo Emerson|
|By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
Farmers aren’t fighting the Redcoats these days, but they do fight, and fight for, other things.
Weather: This year was a tough one for weather, headlined by the worst drought in more than three decades. How many times did farmers look up at a cloudless sky and wonder when the rain might come?
Politics: The U.S. farm bill, which will shape U.S. agriculture for the next five years, was set aside for the 2012 elections and still awaits action.
Critics: Mention agriculture these days, and the hyperbole erupts. Some have promoted phrases like “industrial agriculture” to denigrate what farmers do. Farmers are responding, and they’re doing it the right way – with facts and invitations to visit the farm. Yesterday, I watched the livestream of the Food Dialogues panel discussions on media and marketing, animals and antibiotics, and biotechnology and GMOs – and learned that it’s possible to have a civil discussion on important topics by people of widely separated views. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance is doing good work to tell agriculture’s story and build relationships at the same time.
Education: Success in farming takes brains – and it takes education. Farmers want their children to have a quality education – because the future of agriculture depends on it.
Economy: Farmers are a tiny percentage of the total U.S. population – but more than 20 million of us non-farmers – and our families – depend directly on what farmers do for our own livelihoods. And what they contribute to U.S. exports and America’s balance of trade is critical for both national economic health and helping feed hungry people.
We owe farmers a debt of thanks.
We owe them for more than producing food.
We owe then thanks for who they are, what they stand for, what they do, and how they do it.