Thanks for Farmers

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This week Joanna Radford, our Horticulture Agent, posted an article and a video on our webpage about our local farmers since we normally hold a Farm-City Celebration this time of year. This event is designed to get farmers and their non-farm neighbors and businesses together to foster understanding between the groups.

Thinking about her article led me to think about how 2020 has shaped our country and our world. Our country will be forever changed by this pandemic, and initially there were some fears and uncertainty for us all. For many people, this meant for the only time in their life, a grocery store without full shelves and a realization that food doesn’t come from the grocery store, it’s grown by an actual person, then processed by other people and delivered by even more people. This realization has connected more people with farmers and agriculture than most of our efforts in the past have accomplished. In a world with only select items on the shelves, people went in search of food for their families. Even here in rural Surry County, some people had never visited or thought about what a farmer does or how agriculture works or even how food is made available to them. Suddenly, they were looking for locally produced food; from meat to vegetables to eggs or any other item they could find. They lined up for the opportunity to buy chicken from a poultry integrator that many just viewed as they passed it going somewhere else without thinking how important it was to our food supply. People once again talked about growing a garden and preserving their own food. More importantly, many of them connected a face with the word “farmer” and they realized that farmers aren’t overall wearing, dirty, smelly, uneducated people who wreck the environment. They found a real person with a family of their own who was willing to help them find a way to feed their family. A person who cared about the crops, livestock and land that they are stewards of. They found a link with where food actually comes from that has been missing for not too many generations. Farmers found that their neighbors weren’t really looking to make things harder for them to do their job by asking questions about how food was grown, they just didn’t understand, and neither side had tried to have a conversation to see what the other was doing and why. Suddenly, slick marketing ads about different food products didn’t matter, just that food was out there and farmers were still growing it, were willing to share and were good people.

I, like everyone else, look forward to 2020 being a memory and moving on with a better 2021 and I’m glad we have had this conversation between farmers and non-farmers. I have been involved in agriculture my whole life and career and I’ve never been more proud of the farmers and those who took the time to learn even a little about agriculture. i think what many people saw was that farmers never gave up on producing our food, they went about doing what needed to be done to produce their crops and livestock and took a little time to talk with those who came to visit. In the end, that’s what matters most, that we all have a better understanding of each other. Maybe 2020 wasn’t so bad after all…