Time to Thank a Farmer

— Written By Zack Taylor and last updated by

Farming has a long history in the United States, from techniques used by the Native Americans, to practices brought over to the first permanent settlement of Jamestown. At the time our nation was founded, less than 4 million people lived in the United States, and 90 percent the labor force was employed in agriculture. That number has slowly declined over the years as more people have moved away from rural communities and into urban centers. Now we live in a nation of more than 320 million, and less than 2 percent of us live on a farm. Despite that, agriculture is still one of our largest industries as a nation, and the largest industry in North Carolina, and even with less people working on the farm, the agriculture industry is still growing. Here in North Carolina, agriculture currently pumps about 84 billion dollars into the state’s economy. Farmers and the Department of Agriculture would like to see that number grow even further. Steve Troxler, the Commissioner of Agriculture, has said that he wants to see the value of agriculture reach 100 billion by 2020. This is definitely a goal we can reach, but not without great farmers to help us get there.

The strength of North Carolina’s agriculture is in its diversity. Many think of North Carolina as a tobacco producing state, and while we do lead the nation in the production of flue-cure tobacco, we also lead the nation in production of sweet potatoes and poultry and eggs. While you may have already known that, did you know that North Carolina produces nearly 60% of the United States supply of sweet potatoes? We grow nearly 30,000 more acres than the next three leading states, California, Louisiana, and Mississippi combined! And that’s not all we grow in North Carolina, we are second in the nation in production of hogs, turkeys, trout, and Christmas trees. North Carolina also consistently ranks in the top five producing states of upland cotton, strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell pepper, and peanuts. We raise quite a bounty here in North Carolina to help fill your thanksgiving table and more.

Here in Lee County, things are no different. While tobacco remains our largest cash crop, you’ll find a variety of crops produced on local farms. From asparagus to zuchinni, you can find an abundance of fresh and local produce right here within just minutes of Sanford. You’ll also find that our farms are critical to keeping NC in the top spot for raising poultry and sweet potatoes.

I mention all of these things as a reminder of the work and dedication of the farmers here in our community. As Thanksgiving approaches, it is that time of the year when we look back and think about the things we have to be thankful for. With so few of us working in agriculture these days, how often do we really take time to think about all the hard work that goes into each and every meal you enjoy? Or what goes into growing the fabric for the clothes we wear, or increasingly the fuel that gets us around in our cars? Those are just a few of the ways everyone is touched by agriculture each and every day. Many people in the city may not even know a farmer and wonder how can I get a chance to learn more about farming and actually thank a farmer? Well, by attending the annual Farm City Banquet of course!

Our Farm City Week Banquet will be held on Monday, November 20, at the McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center. At the banquet, we will recognize a local agricultural operation with the Farm Enterprise award. We will also recognize a local Friend of Agriculture, and quite a few local farmers. This year, we will also introduce our Farm City Week Scholarship. The scholarship is open to high school and college students who plan to pursue a degree in agriculture. Please contact me at 919-775-5624 if you qualify to find out how to apply. Applications are due November 10!

There will also be a feast of scrambled eggs, country ham, grits with red-eye gravy, and biscuits prepared by the Lemon Springs Ruritan Club. You can get your advance ticket for just $8 at the McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center.

I hope this year, everyone will take just a little bit of time to think about how much of an impact agriculture has on daily life. I think you will find it is more ways than you had ever thought. As you sit down at the table this year for thanksgiving, whether you can attend our Farm City Week banquet or not, I hope you will take the time to thank a farmer for making it all possible.

Zack Taylor is the Agriculture Agent – Field Crops and Livestock, for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.