Know your food, know your farmers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 18, 2010

Every year around this time I ask this question: Where does your food come from?

I’ve traveled around the state and most people know me now as the woman that writes the letter to the editor each year about agriculture.

I’ve discovered most Mississippians agree with me when I tell them most children think food comes directly from “the grocery store.”

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Well, frankly, that’s quite disturbing. The grocery store isn’t where food comes from — it’s just from where it’s distributed.

In reality, far too many people are unaware of the role of American agriculture in their daily lives, and what it really takes to have food on their dinner table.

Just a few generations ago, most people were a part of — and had friends or relatives involved with — agriculture. Growing up in Lawrence and Warren counties, I was exposed to agriculture on various levels: cotton, cattle, vegetables, soybeans and poultry.

But today, most of our youth have not had that exposure. That’s why I’m writing. Because agriculture is responsible for providing the necessities of life, food, fiber, clothing and shelter.

And it’s about time Americans recognize that contribution.

Today, each American farmer feeds more than 129 people. And the need for food produced in the United States is dramatic.

Agriculture is this nation’s No. 1 export and vitally important in sustaining a healthy economy.

And it’s not just the farmer who makes our food possible. The entire agriculture industry, all the way to the local grocers to the state’s farmers’ market. They all are vital links in a chain that brings food to every citizen in this state — and millions of people around the country and abroad.

Frankly, it’s easy to take agriculture for granted in America. Our food is readily accessible and safe.

For this, we’re unbelievably fortunate, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation to recognize how it’s made possible.

March 14-21 is National Ag Week, hosted by the Agriculture Council of America.

Ag Day is a good time to reflect — and be grateful for — American agriculture, and to share that message with others.

I hope you will join me in thanking a farmer!

When you meet a child who doesn’t know our food comes from a farmer, give me a call and we’ll host a farm day so our kids can be educated on agriculture.

J. Latrice Hill

Public relations and outreach specialist

for the USDA Farm Service Agency State Office, Jackson