Drive pretty much anywhere in NC anymore and you can tell the lay of the land is changing. There are more and more folks on the road and less “beautiful pastoral byways” to admire. Lee County is experiencing some of this trend as well. Since 1992 the number of farmer operators has declined by at least 25% and the number of farms have dropped by at least 18%. In 2015 only 1.4 % of our residents were employed in agriculture, while almost 46% were working in the service industry and about 22% in manufacturing. The rural-urban gap is more than just demographics or politics. It’s also about education and awareness.
Today many of our farms have transformed with the times. Now, growers and producers operate high-tech, agricultural enterprises that do business not only at the local level, but statewide, nationally and globally as well. Agriculture is our state’s No. 1 industry, with food, fiber and forestry contributing $84 billion to our economy. Farm-City Week is a time to bring farmers together with folks who live in our increasingly urban areas who often don’t understand farming in general, or the many different ways it impacts their lives specifically.
The idea behind Farm City Week, to recognize the interdependence of rural and urban communities, began in the mid 1950’s when Charles Dana Bennett, businessman from Vermont and Merle H. Tucker, Chairman of Kiwanis International Agriculture and Conservation Committee, shared a train headed from Chicago to Washington, D.C. and got to talking about declining farm incomes and rising costs, debts and taxes. Conversation continued about the poor public image of agriculture, the strong urban influence on ag policies and a growing population with no direct ties to agriculture. The rural reality and the points of reference for the urban population were growing distant. The National Farm-City Committee was created and coordinated by Kiwanis International.
These public relations goals continue today by trying to establish a better understanding between the agriculture community and urban residents. Across the country, Farm-City events are planned by Cooperative Extension, Agri-Businesses, Farmers, Youth Groups, Civic Groups and other organizations to educate the public about the interdependence of agriculture and industry. Locally, Farm City Week Proclamations are made at the Commissioners Meetings for Broadway, Lee County and the Sanford City Council. In addition, there are activities our community can celebrate in Farm City Week events, such as the 4-H Art Contest and the 4-H & Adult Photography Contest – just get your entry in by November 13th.
Come join your neighbors and friends for the Farm City Week Banquet on November 20th (advance $8 tickets are available at the McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center). Other activities include an Elected Officials Tour on November 21st and a Ladies Luncheon on November 29th. For more information about Farm City Week Events, contact NC Cooperative Extension at 919-775-5624.
Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.