As our society becomes more urban, fewer Americans ever see the connection between the food they eat, the clothing they wear and the farms where the food and fiber products are grown. Most of us will never see the cow that produces the milk for our breakfast, the cotton field from which the cotton in our blue jeans comes, or the fields and orchards where our fresh produce is grown. Yet every day, whether we realize it or not, we benefit from the bounty produced by the American farmer. Their rich harvest provides food for this nation and for other countries around the world.
Thanks to this abundance, Americans spend around 10 percent of their household income on food, compared with 24 percent spent in 1930 and they earn enough disposable income in 35 days to pay for the food they consume throughout the year. In a lifetime the average American will consume 1,239 chickens, enough vegetables to fill 16 pickup trucks, twenty 240 pound hogs, enough milk to fill 34 bathtubs, seven steers weighing over 7,000 pounds and two football fields of wheat. In 2007 an individual farmer fed 155 people, compared to feeding just over 18 people in 1940 and 26 in 1960.
Agribusiness, North Carolina’s number one industry includes food, fiber and forestry products and contributed $75 billion to the state’s economy and employed 638,000 people in 2010. Agriculture accounts for one-fifth of the state’s $425 billion gross state product and 17 percent of North Carolina’s 4 million employees. To put agriculture’s economic importance in perspective, the N.C. Department of Commerce reports the state’s second-leading industry — the military — contributes about $23 billion to the economy. In addition, NC is 9th in US cash receipts and the total value of NC agriculture exports exceeded $3 billion in 2010. Each year farming in Lee County generates roughly $50 million with agriculture and agribusiness industries providing a total income of $235,928,708. These successes are due in part to people working together from the farm to the city. Many jobs are created in harvesting, storage, processing, transporting, and selling the food and fiber products of the state.
In recognition of the importance of agriculture, the Lee County Board of Commissioners and Sanford City Council will proclaim November 16-22, 2012 as Farm‑City Week during their monthly meetings in November. The Lee County observance is co-sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension and Kiwanis Club of Sanford. Farm‑City Week is a time to recognize that the growth and development of our County and the well‑being of all our citizens depends upon the cooperation and exchange between our rural and urban residents.
Our Farm City Week annual banquet will be held on Monday, November 19 at the McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center. And will again feature the traditional country ham, scrambled eggs, local stone ground grits with red eye gravy and biscuits prepared by the Lemon Springs Ruritan club. The banquet begins with a social at 5:30 p.m. During the evening, the Farm Conservation Family, the Farm Enterprise and Friend of Agriculture awards will be presented. The Temple Teens will entertain those present with a cadre of songs related to agriculture. Tickets are available for $7 at the McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center.
Other Farm City Week activities include a 4-H Youth Art and Photo Contest entitled “Agriculture Exposed in Lee County”. Youth and adults are invited to submit photos of any farm or agricultural related setting in Lee County. New this year will be the “Local Harvest Lunch” prepared by Chef Karen Littlefield of the Country Club of Whispering Pines. Chef Littlefield will prepare a lunch using locally grown produce. Tickets are $10. The annual Ladies Luncheon will be held on Wednesday, December 5 at the McSwain Extension Center. Get your tickets early, this event always sells out.
Our farms provide an abundant supply of safe, wholesome and affordable high quality food, which is unmatched around the world. For more information about Farm City Week or the activities planned, call our Center at 775-5624.
Susan C. Condlin is County Extension Director for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.