Although it seems as if spring has been in West Texas for several weeks already, the season officially begins Tuesday, March 20, on the vernal equinox. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the equinox falls on March 19 or 20 every year, marking spring’s beginning in the northern hemisphere.
Since the 1960s, National Ag Day has been celebrated on the first day of spring. Ag Day, celebrated during Ag Week, March 18–24 this year, was established to honor farmers and ranchers for their hard work and dedication to providing safe, abundant and affordable products, a strong economy, sources of renewable energy and a broad selection of job opportunities.
Agriculture Puts Dinner on the Table
In much the same way that we know electricity doesn’t “just show up” ready to use at our homes, we also know that food and fabrics don’t just arrive at the store—or magically appear on our dinner tables or in our closets. There’s an entire industry dedicated to providing plentiful, safe food for consumption, as well as a range of clothing, textiles and garments.
Agriculture is responsible for providing the necessities of life—food, clothing and shelter—to every human on the planet. Yet this vitally important system is little understood among those outside the industry, much like electricity distribution.
Just a few generations ago, most people were connected to the agricultural way of life, or at least had friends or relatives involved with farming. Today, that’s no longer the case. Few people now understand what it really takes to put dinner on their tables each night.
This is particularly the case in our schools, where students might be exposed to agriculture only if they enroll in related vocational training. And just like the number of electric cooperative linemen, the number of farmers is dropping in the United States. By building awareness through National Ag Day and other initiatives, the Agriculture Council of America is encouraging young people to consider career opportunities in agriculture.
An Important American Export
Most people are similarly unaware of the contribution that U.S. ag and farmers make to the national and global economies. Each American farmer feeds more than 144 people annually, on average, according to the ACA—a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s.
Across the nation in 2015, more than 167,000 farms produced locally edible food and sold it through direct marketing practices, resulting in $8.7 billion in revenue, according to a survey conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Most of those sales, which include fresh and value-added foods, such as meat and cheese, were through farmers markets and on-farm stores.
About 304,000 people were involved in making decisions for the U.S. farms that marketed food for human consumption directly in 2015. Thirty-eight percent of those decision-makers were women.
Texas ranked sixth among all states, with $357 million in direct farm sales of edible commodities. This revenue was generated by 11,078 Texas agricultural operations in 2015. Value-added food products accounted for about one-third of the $357 million.
Farms and ranches are big business in Texas and across the country—and it’s obvious why. An industry so vital to human lives and livelihoods deserves a day of recognition. On National Ag Day, March 20, thank a farmer!