My Agriculture

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There on your plate–the corn and porkchop and potatoes…

That’s my agriculture.

There on your back, the shirt made from cotton dyed into a brilliant color…

That’s my agriculture.

That medicine you take and the perfume you wear and the lipstick you put on…

That’s my agriculture.

The brilliant sunset over a field of wheat…

That’s my agriculture.

Calloused hands, dirty clothes, and a gentle touch…

That’s my agriculture.

Cows, sows, and plows with drones and tractors and technology in there too…

That’s my agriculture.

My agriculture is men and women filled with a love for the land and a love for livestock.

It is passion and love mixed with heartache and frustration. It is hard but worth it. My agriculture is the birth of calf and also the loss of a lamb. It is floods and droughts, cold and hot, feast and famine.

It is a 24/7 job filled with dedication, responsibility and lots of hope with no guarantee.

My agriculture is in the barns, the fields, the forests and beyond.

It provides food, clothes, jobs, and more.

My agriculture is your agriculture.

Celebrate it, appreciate it, and get to know it.

My agriculture isn’t perfect and is often misunderstood. But in the midst of manure and dirt and long hours and sleepless nights is something truly special–people with a passion.

Agriculture is everywhere, and you don’t have to be a farmer to be involved or to celebrate it. Look no farther than your fork and your shirt.

There you will find my agriculture. And there, you will find me.

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We shouldn’t have to have Ag Awareness Weeks–Living in an ag illiterate society

This week was Ag Awareness Week at school (NC State University). In the common area of the brickyard, where a lot of students congregate, were booths and displays set up spreading awareness about agriculture. There were live animals, tractors, and ag students available to answer questions. It thrills me that this event takes place. What a great way to educate and advocate for agriculture!

Photo by Terri Leith http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/agcomm/news-center/perspectives/panelists-talk-sustainable-agriculture-at-ag-awareness-week-forum/

 

But, I have an issue with Ag Awareness Week. There shouldn’t be a need for awareness about ag. Let me say that again. There should NOT be a need for ag awareness. Sure, less than 2 % of the population are farmers, but those are not the only ones who should know about ag.

Why is it that in today’s society, school systems require kids to take mandatory classes in English, math, science, art, and history, but not agriculture when they partake in it 3 times a day at the table? Elementary and beyond, even in universities, agriculture is not among the forefront subjects of education. This is truly bizarre to me if you consider the prevalence that agriculture plays in our day to day lives, community, and economy. Think about this:

  • Food, regardless of type, is needed for human survival. That food comes from some type of agriculture (large or small).
  • America’s net farm income for last year, 2014, was $108 billion. (source)
  • 22 million people work in agriculture related fields. (source)
  • There are over 200 available careers in the agriculture industry. (source)

Aside from the fact that food comes into play in our day to day lives, the influence that agriculture has on our economy and the job market is pretty astounding, and yet, we are not doing a sufficient job in our education system of educating our kids about these opportunities nor its impact. We are failing our kids in the ag literacy front. They may be able to read, but they can’t read ag.

Yeah, sure, schools have classes available for students to take about agriculture. We have ag teachers in schools and whole ag degrees in college, but it is optional for kids. English, math, history, art, and science all have special teachers for their respective subjects, and you can major in them in college, but they are also mandatory at some level in our kids’ education. The previous subjects like math and English are so valuable to a child’s proper education because they will utilize most of it on a day to day basis. So, why, if agriculture is enjoyed at least 3 times a day, is it not mandatory for a child to learn about where their food comes from and how it is made? In my opinion, this is a serious oversight and tragedy that our society is experiencing.

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Because so many students go through elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college without gaining much of an understanding about the agriculture industry, they are missing out on valuable job opportunities, career paths, and the foundations of making educated decisions about what they eat. They never go through life appreciating what farmers do to feed a growing population. People grow up either not thinking about where the food they are consuming comes from, or developing misconceptions about farming in their heads. If and when they are finally exposed to real agriculture and farming, they are often shocked, and this has led to a lot of controversy.

Even worse, is that it is a cycle. Adults are ag illiterate and do not understand it, and then go and pass that on to their children a lot of the time. I have helped with Farm Animal Days in the past and observed mothers tell their kids to look at the puppy I was holding. In reality, I was holding a baby goat. The sad truth was they didn’t know the difference even with a college degree. Potentially more heartbreaking, was watching parents snatch their children’s hands from touching some animals or even dirt, to prevent germs. Animals can get pretty gross sometimes, but they aren’t toxic. I have had an individual in a restaurant ask what I had in the trailer in the parking lot. When we told her it was a pig, she wanted to know if it was big or small. We said it was a smaller pig, weighing around 230 pounds or so. This was a shock to her. People don’t realize pigs get twice that size.

My point in all this is that our society is generally illiterate. I’m not talking about the kind where you can’t read. I’m talking about the kind where you can’t read an anti-farming article and be able to pick out some of the discrepancies. I’m talking about the kind of illiterate that cannot distinguish a goat from a puppy or know how big a pig can get. An illiteracy that does not realize what contributions agriculture makes on the economy and the job market, and that there are opportunities besides being a farmer that are available in the agriculture industry. Beyond even that, many kids are missing out on valuable character building that farming provides such as responsibility, hard work, and ethics. This isn’t to say they don’t receive these character building traits from other places, but farming provides another avenue for it.

Because of this illiteracy, we are forced to hold Ag Awareness Week and recognize Ag Day that promotes more ag literacy. Guys, we shouldn’t have to have these special weeks and days to create awareness. It should already be there. Education should recognize agriculture as a subject that holds equal importance to art, math, science, and English. After all, everyone needs food. Until that happens, though, I say rock on to Ag Awareness Week. Keep up the good fight in educating, and maybe one day, we will live in an ag literate society.

ag literacy

My Agriculture (Throwback to Ag Day 2013)

This is a post from my old blog I wrote 2 years ago. I hope you celebrate agriculture today and everyday.

Today is National Agriculture Day. It is a time to celebrate agriculture all over the nation and bring attention to its many great qualities. Agriculture benefits all of us and is such an important entity in our country and world. Here are a few quick facts that show how beneficial it is and how astounding the industry is:

  • On average, every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, around $6 million in U.S. agricultural products–grains, oilseeds, cotton, meats, vegetables, snack foods, etc., will be consigned for shipment for export to foreign markets.
  • It all means more jobs and higher wages across the nation. U.S. agricultural exports generate more than $100 billion annually in business activity throughout the U.S. economy and provide jobs for nearly 1 million workers.
  • Twenty two million American workers produce, process, sell and trade the nation’s food and fiber. But only 4.6 million of those people live on the farms– slightly less than 2 percent of the total U.S. Population.
  • Consumers spend $547 billion for food originating on U.S. farms and ranches. Of each dollar spent on food, the farmer’s share is approximately 23 cents. The rest are for costs beyond the farm gate: wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation and distribution.

These are astounding facts. Most of us have seen the Super Bowl commercial “And God Made a Farmer”, which gives insight into the world of those who work in the industry. For me, though, agriculture is much more personal than having food on my table. It has been a part of my entire life and has instilled in me so many qualities. You see, for me, it is not just about the product and the benefits for the country, but about how agriculture has shaped my life.

I can say that agriculture has been in the family for generations. My grandpa and great grandpa were crop farmers, and we now live on the same land they farmed. Mom helped with tobacco and had livestock growing up, and Daddy worked on a turkey farm. When I was little, I can remember Daddy bringing home an orphan calf for a day just so I could see it. I would go to work with him and bottle feed a calf or slide down the piles of cotton. Poor him didn’t know what to do with a 3 year old little girl who needed to use the bathroom on the dirt roads of the middle of no where, though. Anyways, this was images of my early years; however, we lived in city limits and couldn’t have any livestock and only had a vegetable garden and dogs. In my 4th grade year, though, my life would change for the amazing.

We moved out to the family land that was across the road from my grandparents. Within the first year, we had gotten 4 goats and started showing them. That was a start of a passion and journey. Those 4 goats grew into a herd of 30 that I learned to manage myself, eventually. I learned how to trim hooves, give shots, birth babies, feed, recognize disease, and so much more. At 9 years old, I learned what it was to get my hands dirty and developed a passion for agriculture. I was always trying to increase my knowledge and animal count (let’s be honest).  Goats were not the only thing I got into. I was soon showing pigs, turkeys, and horses from local to state. It was always a family affair going to fairs and shows. Agriculture has created a closer bond with my family. There have been countless dinner conversations about when to wean goats, how much weight the pigs can gain, and if we need more feed (we are always needing feed). My little brothers have started an egg business, now, and I have gotten into sheep and using their fiber. Make It With Wool allowed me to travel nationally and share my love of part of the agriculture world– sheep and wool.

It wasn’t just good things on the farm. Having livestock is hard. Goats getting out, fixing fences, mucking stalls, and feeding in the rain and mud were the less glamorous part of it all. It was also, though, seeing animals get sick, babies not make it till morning, and the disappointment in all your efforts, still not being enough. It isn’t all glitz and glam. It can be hard, but it so worth it. Walking into the show ring, seeing babies being born, or watching the animals get frisky in good weather makes you smile.

Agriculture has gone beyond the farm for me, though; it is also been in contests such as livestock judging, skillathon, and quiz bowl. Doing these contests through 4-H has increased my knowledge, allowed me to meet people, travel, become a good sport, and public speak.

That all being said, and there is so much more that could be said, agriculture has been a huge part of my life. It has taught me hard work, responsibility, public speaking skills, good sportsmanship, and so very much more. I have become closer to my family and met some wonderful friends. Agriculture puts food on the table, helps the economy, and provides jobs, but it has also benefited me in more ways than I can count. It is a part of me and will be in the future. Hopefully I will be able to find a career in agriculture, promoting it and being a communication person for it. So, here is to agriculture. Let’s celebrate this unique and amazing industry.

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Facts retrieved from NCSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences