During the first few days of spring break, I got to do something amazing: I had my first
experience in Washington D.C., as well as my first experience with National Agriculture Day.
The purpose of this trip was to learn about and educate senators, representatives and their staff about the importance of agriculture, and the role it plays in our daily lives.
Little did I know that my first experience with this would not begin at the Capital, but on the airplane. I met two other passengers, Tyler and Fran, as soon as I sat down. We discussed the nature of my trip, they wanted to know more.
I explained that Americaâ€™s Farmers and Ranchers produce the affordable and healthy food we eat, while using technology and conserving our land and resources.
I told them one of the issues that we face in agriculture is that where we once grew one plant, we must now grow two. It is predicted that by 2050, we will need to have produced more food than we have in the last 10,000 years.
That is a daunting task. This problem is compounded when we consider that roughly 98 percent of Americans are removed from the farm, and the majority of these people do not know where their food really comes from. They believe itâ€™s â€œjust the grocery store.â€ â€œThose outside of agriculture need to understand the importance of agriculture to our society,â€ said Katherine Merrigan, the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.
Today, the average farmer feeds 155 people per day, as compared to 26 people in 1960.
Technological advances such as the use of GPS to control tractors, irrigation systems such as center pivots that use less water and wind and solar powered energy have allowed the agricultural sector to be more efficient and productive than ever before.
I believe that the beginning of the Future Frmers of America (a student agriculture organization) Creed says what we in agriculture hope for, â€œI believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words, but of deeds.â€
The simple truth is that right now American farmers and ranchers are working hard to provide safe, affordable, nutritious food for you. Their actions truly speak louder than their words.
However, in an ever-growing consumer- conscious world, you must learn their stories.
Through the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program, you can do just that. â€œNot every family needs a lawyer, not every family needs an accountant, but every family needs a farmer,â€ said Deputy Secretary Milliman.
I challenge you to do just that: Learn about where your food comes from. Know that 97 percent of American farms and ranches are family-owned and operated. Know that 2.2 million farmers follow strict government health guidelines to produce the food you consume. Know that the average age of a farmer is 57, with 30 percent over 65 and wanting to retire, but canâ€™t because there is no one to pass the farm on to.
This is the same message that I, and 100 other college-aged agricultural students brought to Capital Hill. Meeting with senators and representatives from all across the country, we tried to stress the importance of agriculture.
Even when it was all said and done, I had one more opportunity on the plane ride home with a production editor for the travel channel. I learned that if you want to educate people, you have to do so at all levels â€“â€“ from the average citizen to legislatures.
How much do you know about food from the farm to your table? Even if you donâ€™t know much, know this: American farmers and ranchers are amazing, and deserve your support. We work to feed, clothe and fuel the world.
Robyn Scherer is a graduate student studying integrated resource management. Her column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.