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National Ag Day gives farmers opportunity to educate public
 
Spring is upon us! Regardless of the weather outside, officially this is the first day of the new season. No corn planting in our area, unlike 2012.

We are also in the midst of National Ag Week, March 17-23. In fact, yesterday was National Ag Day. This is the 40th anniversary of both recognitions. The theme for Ag Week 2013 is “Generations Nourishing Generations.” Many agricultural related organizations annually conduct events to generate awareness of the importance of farming and ranching as well as the multiple supporting roles of agricultural businesses. Why all the fuss?

In my previous position, we developed an Agriculture Day agenda as one of 10 monthly leadership sessions for the local Chamber of Commerce. Usually, 20-30 members of the community participated, these folks being either present or budding leaders of businesses or community organizations.  

Over the years, we always asked the leadership participants about family ties to farming. Very few were either active farmers or had grown up on a farm. Most had to go back several generations for any family connections to production agriculture. Quite surprising since agriculture was, and still is the number one dollar generator in this county and Ohio. However, if we realize that less than 2 percent of the country’s population is now actively engaged in farming, we should also be aware that the vast majority of people are likely to have little knowledge of farm life.

National Ag Week provides an opportunity for us to educate over 98 percent of the USA about the production of food, fiber and fuel. Purchasing food at a store or restaurant, buying clothes on-line or at the store, or filling up the car’s tank with ethanol enhanced gas or biodiesel, generally does little to help people gain a perspective on the importance of agriculture. Much of what is done during this week may be most noticed by farmers and those working directly with them. The challenge to all of us is to broaden the publicity efforts by sharing our message with friends, co-workers and even far flung acquaintances.

The general population also has little appreciation for the essential role in maintaining a strong economy. One of the messages we used to share in our leadership sessions is that agriculture, along with manufacturing and mining, generates original dollars that turn over in the economy seven times. Not that other professions are unimportant, but only agriculture, manufacturing and mining create new money that provide the base or foundation for the rest of the economy to work with.

Agriculture, in association with mining (think fertilizer, lime, gravel, etc) and manufacturing (farm equipment, food processing, ethanol production, etc.), provides almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis. The average American farmer feeds more that 144 people in this country and the world, a significant increase from the 25 people in the 1960’s. Agriculture also plays an important role in protecting our environment. Contrary to what is often read in the popular press, farmers and supporting businesses strive to reduce negative impacts on water and air resources, while seeking new and more efficient ways to provide an ever growing population food, clothing and energy. 

In our instant news and immediate gratification world, we need to spend time to continually create awareness of agriculture issues with everyone we know, and everyone they know. Did the Dodge truck Superbowl commercial generate enough positive curiosity with the American public? Has it sustained enough interest in agriculture for non-farmers to seek out accurate information about food, fiber and fuel production?  
3/20/2013