|This time of year there are a lot of special banquets, breakfasts, and other activities celebrating the great American industry: agriculture.
At these events, you will hear lots of statistics. Like how many people are fed by American farmers. How affordable, safe, and reliable our food supply is. This year you will hear a lot of talk about how American agriculture is the answer to our energy crisis.
So, since you will hear all these important facts at whatever event you attend, I will not put them in this column. What I will include are some not so well known but just as important facts about how American agriculture has and will impact our nations, history, culture, waistlines and fuel lines.
Agriculture is more than just a food and fiber industry. Many of the products produced by American farmers and ranchers end up in a variety of products we use everyday, for example: money. The dollar bill, along with all the other denominations, is not made from paper. They are made of a cotton/linen blend. In addition, more than 25 percent of the prescription drugs we use include an agricultural ingredient.
The glue that holds layers of plywood together is made from pigs’ blood. The collagen that dermatologists inject under the skin to reduce wrinkles or puff up lips comes from the boiled bones and hooves of cows.
One of agriculture’s biggest contributions has been to our language. There are dozens of common forms of speech related directly to agriculture. The term “greenhorn” originally meant a young ox, which had not yet learned the commands of the driver. It eventually became the word for any inexperienced person. In 18th Century England, the slang term for a shilling was a “hog”. Spending an entire shilling on entertainment was going “whole hog”. Living “high on the hog” comes from eating the expensive cuts of pork from the loin and ham.
The neck feathers on a chicken are called “hackles” and when a chicken gets excited it raises its hackles, hence the phrase. A wether leading a flock of sheep would often have a bell around its neck. Thus the term bellwether is an indicator of future movement.
A “Judas goat” was used to lead lambs to slaughter. Finally “catgut” used to string violins and tennis rackets does not come from cats. It typically comes from the guts of sheep, goats, horses or cattle.
For you FFAers who will most likely be asked to lead the pledge or offer the invocation at Ag Day events, here are a few one-liners to impress the attractive girl or guy sitting next to you.
Carrots used to be white and purple. It was the Dutch who developed the orange color that eventually became standard.
Wood from the ship “The Mayflower” was used to build a barn. Milk is the only food produced that is not touched by human hands.
The United States is the only nation in the world that grows corn. All other nations call it maize.
For more fascinating facts about agriculture and how it impacts our lives, get a copy of the book Fainting Goats and Malted Milk by Jan Tribbett. Her e-mail is jtribbett@ hotmail.com
Now that you are armed with all the proper information, go to an Ag Day event and support agriculture, but don’t stop after Ag Week. Agriculture needs more of you than to just show up for a meal. Agriculture needs your support at the ballot box and the zoning commission hearing. Farmers in your area also need your business. Visit a local farmers’ market, or visit a farm in your area; start buying locally.
There is a website in your state that lists producers who sell direct to the public, log on, look up, and do business. Now you really do know everything you need to celebrate National Agriculture Day.
This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.