March 15-21, 2015 is Virginia Agriculture Week. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services suggests that it’s the perfect opportunity to give credit where credit is due. During this special week, take a minute to thank a farmer. No engraved note paper or frilly bouquets required; a thoughtful nod will do.
Of course every farmer has a lot of help, but gratitude for all of Virginia’s growers will not be misplaced. Here are a few good reasons:
Start with your breakfast cereal and milk. Consider the fruit you add, the cotton robe and sheepskin slippers you are wearing when you eat them and the cut flowers or potted plant that decorate the breakfast table. You can thank several farmers for these.
Add the turkey sandwich, apple, potato chips and ginger ale you’re having for lunch, your mid-afternoon peanut snack and the steak with mushrooms, fresh vegetables, crusty rolls and Virginia wine you enjoyed for dinner. Kudos to the farmers who had a hand in putting all this on your table.
Outside look for newly laid sod, a display of colorful bedding plants tucked into a blanket of mulch, bird seed in the feeder and firewood stacked by the back door. A pat on the back for the farmers who helped array your backyard.
Farmers don’t ask for gratitude and none would expect it, however well deserved. But it is time to thank our farmers, not only for the rich and varied agricultural bounty which provides nourishment, clothing, shelter and beauty for all Virginians, but for the intangible, indomitable spirit that keeps them going.
And that’s not all. Farmers deserve thanks
- for persevering despite drought and flood, freezing temperatures, parching sun, fluctuating prices and constantly changing markets;
- for seeking better ways to do their jobs – using new techniques and advances in technology to simplify tasks, increase yields and lower prices;
- for feeding the world – in the 1960s, one farmer supplied food for about 25 people in the U.S. and abroad; today, the number has increased to 155 people;
- for their spirit of innovation – always looking for new products and changes that increase the quality and add value to the products they produce;
- for valuing our land and water resources and for making their preservation and enhancement top priorities;
- for adapting to change – expanding to meet the demands of a global marketplace while still satisfying consumers’ shifting tastes and desire for low fat, high nutrition products at home and abroad, in 2014, exports from Virginia set a record of more than $3 billion;
- for supplying Americans with an abundant and safe food supply at a low price, enabling U.S. consumers to spend less than 7 percent of their income on food compared with more than 9 percent in Canada, 25 percent in Brazil, 28 percent in Russia and 45 percent in Kenya*;
- for providing the basis for numerous products including medicines, cosmetics, printing supplies, fuel, lubricants, lumber, paints and sports equipment;
- for enduring; on March 1 this year, 1,312 Virginia farms have been recognized as Virginia Century Farms, which means they have been owned by the same families for one hundred years or more.
The benefits of agriculture extend far and wide. What starts as the growing and harvesting of food and fiber ends up with almost everything we eat, wear and use. It’s time to thank our farmers for that. For all of these reasons and more, Governor McAuliffe has declared March 15 – 21 as Virginia Agriculture Week.