There is now a week each year devoted to Ag Awareness, but what is it? Just how does one become aware of agriculture? I fear the vast majority of the American population has drifted so far from its agricultural roots that they really do not understand all that the term agriculture refers to. It is no longer simply the operation of a farm or the planting of crops. Ag is a business that brings a significant dollar amount to a region.
Our forefathers made their living in this great land by the sweat and toil of manual labor. The U.S. was founded as a land that saw agriculture at the forefront. Much of the land was utilized for growing things.
In the early days the farmers were the landed aristocracy. They held the wealth and power of the nation. They were the leaders.
Later, farms broke into small self-sufficient units as the homesteaders staked their claims during the movement to the western frontiers. Family farms were a way of life.
Family farms were prevalent during the 19th and 20th centuries. Fathers passed on their legacy in the form of land, animals and the reputation of hard work. Family members worked side by side - many times from sun-up until sundown. There were few idle hours, but the togetherness of the farm family was cemented by a common interest - the farm.
I personally felt the stigma of being a farmer's wife even before we married. When our engagement went into the local paper I noticed people whispering behind my back. I saw the giggles when I ran into former acquaintances. People think that farmers don't know anything. They think they are ignorant. All farmers take a bad rap because of a few who are careless about their appearance and the appearance of the homestead. Today's farmers are not only savvy; they are computer-literate and experienced business men and women.
Moving to the country and marrying a farmer provided a wonderful environment to raise a family.
The farm scene is not the bucolic setting that artists draw and paint about. It is a lot of hard work, but the family works together instead of the mom, dad and children all heading in different directions.
Our children learned to work. They learned to be part of a team. They learned responsibility. They learned respect for their elders. They learned about life extraneously. None of these things were taught. They were modeled.
Depression years were hard on everyone. Farmers were fortunate because they knew how to take care of their families. They could grow much of what was needed. Money was scarce, but as long as the farm prevailed the farm family could squeak by.
Today, the nation's farmers have no enviable position. The land they own costs them in many ways. Property taxes are constantly on the rise while farm income steadily declines.
There have been several migrations from the country to the city. The trend these days happens in reverse. The trend is to move to the country.Many people long to be landowners. The move to the country is not always a positive thing from the farmer's point of view. The city dwellers who move to rural areas want all of the amenities that they are used to. They are not willing to live as the farmers of the area have lived for years.
Some of the new "country" residents make it tough on the farmers. They do not understand the process. They think of farms as being dirty and smelly. They dislike the inconvenience of having to wait while animals are moved from one side of the road to the other. Heaven help the farmer if the animal should create droppings along the road!
The part that people do not understand is that farmers are the mainstay of the food supply. Without the farmers there would be no food. It is from the farms that we get fresh vegetables and fruit. It is from the farm that the meat supply is replenished with farmers raising the animals and feeding them from beginning to end. Whether you are a vegetarian or a meat eater it does not matter. All food comes from living things. The farmer cares for those living things.
When the price of food goes up in the stores it does not mean that the farmer is getting more money for a product. Quite often the increase in price goes to the middle man and the farmer continues to receive the same payments.
The U.S. needs a substantial agricultural base to be able to supply the needs of its citizenry. Farmers produce more and more, but it is not enough. Do we really want to have to import the majority of our food? While trade with other countries is good there are too many opportunities for harm when we import everything. Of course, people can plant gardens and raise produce on their own, but that takes work. Many are not able or not willing to work that hard for their food. These days they do not even want to be responsible for cooking it!
Ag Awareness Day happens in the spring because that is when the farmer is beginning the process of raising the food for the year. Animal babies can be seen in the pastures on area farms. Those little lambs and goats are darling. I have only to look in the pasture down the road to see nature at work. Soon the baby calves will be coming.
The fields are being plowed to receive the seed that will yield food for the animals as well as produce for your tables. Spring is an exciting time of year. Everything is waking up. Everything is beginning to grow. The world replenishes itself each spring as nature intended it.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.