Today is the first day of Ag Week, a week "to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture" to paraphrase www.agday.org. This is a special week for me as a farmer, but it should be a special week for you as well.
For me this is special because one branch or another of my family have been farmers for as far back as I can trace. While all of the branches of my family tree have been farmers for the last 4-6 generations, the Winterton family has been farming for at least 10 generations, and probably forever.
But this should be a special week for all of you as well, because everything you eat and most of what you wear starts with agriculture. Because the American farmer is so productive, 98% of you can live and work in towns and cities across the country.
In 1776, 40% of the American population were small or medium sized independent farmers, raising their own food and clothing. There were also large plantations, primarily in the south, that employed lots of labor, some free and many slaves.
Today the United States is the only country in the world that does not need to import food to feed its own people. While we do import food, it's because of convenience or desire. All of us like our fresh fruits and vegetables year around so they are often imported.
Farming is tough, dirty and sometimes dangerous. Unfortunately I know too many farmers who are missing a finger, toe, hand or arm. I only have to look in the mirror in the morning to find one of them. We have to deal with physical and mental stress every day.
It used to be all you needed to be a farmer was a strong back and a good wife. No longer. I really like the poster above. Farmers today have to be astute businessmen or women. That's right women. Farmers who happen to be women make up a quickly growing segment of our industry.
So with all these hardships, why do I do it? Because I can. Because it is what I love! Most days I feel I am the luckiest guy around because I get to farm the same ground my father, grandfather and great-grandfather farmed.
Farmers are independent. We get to set our own hours, as long as the work gets done. The joy of watching a newborn calf or pig. The joy of a little corn seedling coming through the soil. The joy of harvest. The ability to stop for a moment and play with your dog. The joy of seeing your children while you are working, and yes, the ability to give your children farm chores.
We get to live and work with God's creation all around us. We get to listen to the birds sing, watch deer and squirrels. Faith in God is very important. I have found that most of my farmer friends have very strong faith lives and are active in their respective churches. We know that we are only helping God raise our crops and livestock.
This week, wherever you live and work, give thanks for the farmer who grew your breakfast, lunch and dinner; who grew the material in your clothes. We do it because we love it, but appreciation is always nice.