By DOUG SCHMITZ
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — In effort to support, encourage, and promote programs and activities by organizations, companies, and individuals, the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) will host the 46th anniversary of National Agriculture Day (NAD) on March 14.
Jennifer Pickett, executive vice president and CEO of the National Agri-Marketing Assoc., explained the NAD’s overall goal is to “inform trade and general media about National Agriculture Day and provide information to increase awareness” and “involve the agricultural public relations community in support of National Agriculture Day.”
Founded in 1973, the ACA and National Agriculture Day also seek to provide planning information and materials in support of NAD programs and activities, Pickett added.
With this year’s theme, “Agriculture: Food for Life,” NAD also “encourages every American to understand how food and fiber products are produced; appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant, and affordable products; value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy; and acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food, and fiber industry.”
Clarke McGrath, Iowa State University’s Iowa Soybean Research Center on-farm research and extension coordinator, who also farms in southwestern Iowa, said NDA means a lot to him.
“With this being Ag Week, it was fun to stand still for a minute and think about what my career in agriculture means to me. It sounds like an easy question, but how do you explain something that is ‘in your blood?’
“Generations ago in Ireland, my relatives started a continuous run of careers in agriculture in Ireland, then to America,” he added, “so working with cattle, horses, pasture, hay, corn, and soybeans is probably in my DNA.”
He said agriculture also means “getting to do many of the things I enjoy most, especially being out in the country.
“Running a sprayer, fixing fence, scouting crops – sure, some things are more fun than others and some days are nicer than others,” he mused, “but it’s hard to beat having a job where you can enjoy the great outdoors anytime you want. I’d never make it at a desk job.”
He said a career in agriculture also means “working with some of the finest people on the planet.
“After working with folks across the U.S. Midwest, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Ukraine, it seems that no matter where they are from, people in agriculture are generally rock solid, hardworking folks with a good sense of community,” he noted.
“Being in agriculture means being able to work with people who you oftentimes have a lot in common with, which makes a career a heck of a lot of fun.”
As for the future, McGrath said technology will evolve at an even more rapid pace, but hopefully won’t displace or replace roles for people in agriculture. “Just a few years ago, civilian versions of drones, or UAVs, were pretty much just toys; now they will provide farmers with real-time information on soil conditions and plant health.”
He added the rule of three especially applies: “You can go roughly three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Agriculture is pretty much the reason most of us don’t have to worry about the latter,” he said.
“In a few more years will we commonly use UAVs to scout, pinpoint, and spray weeds or insects? Or will gene editing make crops impervious to all pests? Will corn average 400 bushels per acre, and soybeans 150 bushels per acre? Or will cropping patterns change, with some other crop competing for our acres? What role will automation and robotics play in agriculture?” he wondered.
“It is pretty easy to imagine that if we still have the whole air and water thing covered, agriculture will continue to have our back on the food aspect of the rule of threes.”
Isabella Chism, Indiana Farm Bureau second vice president, who also chairs the ACA and oversees much of the National Ag Day planning, said, “The whole cause of this is to build an awareness and an appreciation for agriculture. From birth to death, agriculture touches our lives every single moment of the day.”
On Feb. 19, the ACA announced the 2019 National Ag Day video and essay winners, based on this year’s the theme of “Agriculture: Food for Life: How Does Our Nation Lead the Way?” The essay winner, Grace Brose from Box Elder, S.D., will receive a $1,000 prize and travel to Washington, D.C., for recognition at the National Press Club this week.
The contests also named two merit winners who will receive $100 and blog posts featuring their essays. They are Brody Allen Snook of Marseilles, Ill., and Emily Li of Sugar Land, Texas.
In addition, this year’s video essay winner, Jacob Kandell of Mason, Ohio, won $1,000. Entries can be viewed online at www.agday.org/2019-contest-winners
To learn more and register for NAD events, visit www.agday.org