Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Virginia Agriculture Week


March 14 – 20, 2010 is Virginia Agriculture Week. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) suggests that it’s the perfect opportunity to give credit where credit is due. During this special week, take a minute to thank a farmer. No engraved note paper or frilly bouquets required; a thoughtful nod will do.

Of course every farmer has a lot of help, but gratitude for all of Virginia’s growers will not be misplaced. Here are a few good reasons:

Start with your breakfast cereal and milk. Consider the fruit you add, the cotton robe you are wearing when you eat it and the cut flowers that decorate the breakfast table. You can thank a farmer for these.

Add the turkey sandwich, apple, potato chips and ginger ale you’re having for lunch, your mid-afternoon peanut snack and the steak with mushrooms, fresh vegetables, crusty rolls and Virginia wine you enjoy for dinner. Kudos to the farmers who had a hand in putting all this on your table.

Outside look for newly laid sod, an array of colorful bedding plants tucked into a blanket of mulch, bird seed in the feeder and firewood stacked by the back door. A pat on the back for the farmers who helped array your backyard.

Farmers don’t ask for gratitude and none would expect it however well deserved. But it is time to thank our farmers, not only for the rich and varied agricultural bounty which provides nourishment, clothing, shelter and beauty for all Virginians, but for the intangible, indomitable spirit that keeps them going despite rough times and daunting obstacles.

And that’s not all. Farmers deserve thanks:

for persevering despite drought and flood, freezing temperatures, parching sun, fluctuating prices and constantly changing markets;

for seeking better ways to do their jobs – using new techniques and advances in technology to simplify tasks, increase yields and lower prices; in the 1960s, one farmer supplied food for about 25 people in the U.S. and abroad but by 2008, the number had increased to 130;

for their spirit of innovation – always looking for new products and changes that increase the quality and add value to the products they produce;

for valuing our land and water resources and for making their preservation and enhancement top priorities;

for adapting to change – expanding to meet the demands of a global marketplace while still satisfying consumers’ shifting tastes and desire for low fat, high nutrition products at home;

for supplying Americans with an abundant and safe food supply at a low price; the average U.S. consumer spent 9.8 percent of disposable personal income (income available after taxes) on all food in 2007 - that’s 5.7 percent on food at home and 4.1 percent on food away from home (Source: www.ers.usda.gov);

for providing the basis for numerous products including medicines, cosmetics, printing supplies, fuel, lubricants, lumber, paints and sports equipment;

for enduring; more than 1,100 Virginia farms – owned by the same families for one hundred years or more – have been recognized as Virginia Century Farms.

The benefits of agriculture extend far and wide. What starts as the growing and harvesting of food and fiber, ends up with almost everything we eat, wear and use. It’s time to thank our farmers for that.


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