Where does your food come from?

Published 1:39 am Saturday, March 9, 2019

By Westley B. Drake

Where does your food come from? If you are like many Americans, the answer is the grocery store. While that is true, it is important to know that the grocery store is not where food actually comes from, it is only distributed there. In today’s fast-paced world, a lot of people are completely unaware of the role of American agriculture in their daily lives, and its importance to our nation.

Over 85 percent of all Americans are at least two generations away from the farm. Before then, most people either worked on a farm or knew someone who did. Today, that is no longer the case. As time has passed, farmers have continued to adopt larger machinery and newer technology, in order to become more efficient at what they do. This combination has resulted in a lower need for manual labor, thus reducing the number of people needed to work on a farm. At the same time, the number of job opportunities in cities and large urban areas has continued to grow, providing a destination for people originally from rural areas without any involvement in agriculture. Perhaps the worst part of the separation between the farm and the average American’s dinner table is simply the knowledge of how their food got there.

American farmers are working harder than ever, and it shows. Today, each American farmer feeds more than 165 people. Over the past 70 years, U.S. farmers have increased their productivity by 262 percent while reducing their amount of inputs by 2 percent. It is also interesting to note that farmers and ranchers make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, but yet they produce enough food to feed 100 percent of the U.S. population. In addition, about 23 percent of all farm commodities grown in the U.S. are exported to foreign nations, which also results in agriculture being our nation’s No. 1 export.

Even though the United States does import some food from foreign nations, that amount is far less than the amount being exported. Not only are America’s farmers the most efficient in the world, but they also produce the largest and safest food supply in the world as well. This large supply of food is the main reason why Americans enjoy the cheapest food in the world. In fact, the average U.S. citizen spends only 9.8 percent of their disposable income on food, which is the lowest of any country.

It is not just the work of farmers and ranchers who make our food possible. The entire agriculture industry relies on transportation, technology, research and regulation to help supply food to every citizen in the safest and cheapest manner. From the field, to the processing plant, to the grocery store and everywhere in between, the agriculture industry creates 22 million jobs or about 1 in 12 jobs in the United States. This combination of highly skilled American workers ensures a safe and steady food supply is available for our own citizens as well as other people around the world.

Let’s face it, agriculture is our world’s oldest occupation and it has seen many changes since Adam and Eve first walked through the Garden of Eden. As time has passed, agriculture has always managed to stay ahead of the dietary needs of our rapidly increasing world population. Throughout all of the changes and innovation that agriculture has experienced in history, the average American is more disconnected from the agriculture industry than ever before.

Farmers and other industry representatives who are passionate about educating the public about agriculture are working harder than ever to bridge that gap. Perhaps that is why it is important for our nation to celebrate National Agriculture Week. This year, it will be recognized during the week of March 10-16, with National Ag Day on March 14. This week will provide many Americans with the opportunity to learn more about where their food comes from, as well as the opportunity to meet or hear from farmers like myself through various media outlets. I hope you will join me in taking time to reflect, and be grateful for American agriculture!

WESTLEY B. DRAKE is a local farmer and passionate agriculture advocate from Newsoms. Contact him at peanutfarmer9@yahoo.com.