What seat does agriculture have at your dinner table?
243 million. 8.4 million. 44 billion. 1.6 billion. 1.8 billion.
That’s a lot of numbers: Any idea what they are? How about these smaller ones?
1. 2. 20. 1. 50.
According to the USDA, in 2017, farmers across America produced 243 million turkeys, 8.4 million barrels of cranberries, 44 billion pounds of potatoes, 1.6 billion pounds of pumpkin, and 1.8 billion pounds of green beans. All those big numbers boiled down to smaller ones: 1 turkey on your holiday table, perhaps 2 types of cranberries, 20 or so potatoes mashed together, 1 pumpkin pie, and around 50 beans put together in a green bean casserole.
Last month, many families gathered around tables for Thanksgiving dinners. We gave thanks for the blessings in our lives, enjoyed time with the people we love, and made some new memories. And we ate food. We all came to dinner.
Often, I hear facts like the average American is at least 3 generations off the farm, that 1.3 % of Americans are farmers, and that 1 in 10 jobs are related to agriculture.
Maybe you are the person who is 3 generations off the farm, feeling that you have no connection to agriculture and farming. Maybe you’re part of the 1.3% that farms, feeling that your profession is undervalued and unsure of your farm’s future.
Maybe you have a job that is 1 in 10 related to agriculture, feeling proud that you can be a part of agriculture. Maybe you have a job that is 1 in 10 related to agriculture and you feel that you have no connection to agriculture and farming.
All the people in all those scenarios have very different perceptions of agriculture. But we all came to dinner on Thanksgiving. That is a connection to agriculture that we can all be proud of.
Being involved in FFA, I often heard about the challenges facing agriculture, the growing world population, and that we as FFA members were the future of agriculture that would find solutions for these challenges.
There are so many opportunities in FFA for students to learn more about agriculture. FFA members start Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE) which are projects they do outside of teacher instruction: raising animals, working at an agricultural company, doing agricultural research, managing their school’s land lab, and more.
Members can also get involved in competitions such as Career Development Events which expose them to knowledge and skills about a variety of agricultural careers. In 250 agriculture education programs across the state, members are learning skills that will help them be successful in their future careers.
Regardless of whether students who walk into their local agriculture classroom are 3 generations off the farm, part of the 1.3% who farm, plan to work in agriculture or not, they will have the opportunity to be a part of agriculture, to understand its vital role, and to know why it matters to them. Because agriculture is something that everyone needs.
My challenge for you is to reach out to the people around you and show them how much they rely on agriculture. It does not have to be boastful or contain numerous facts. Share your genuine story: a story of a 6-generation farm, a story of getting involved in agriculture through FFA, a story of ending up working at an agricultural company by chance.
Whatever story you come to the table with, know that it is valuable and worth sharing. We all came to the table over Thanksgiving – our challenge now is to show others the seat that agriculture has at every table.
We hope you had a great Thanksgiving, enjoyed some delicious food, and were reminded of how you fit in to agriculture. We know we’re thankful for Wisconsin FFA, agriculture, and the opportunities we’ve be provided every day.
Hayden the president of the Wisconsin State Officer Team