July 1, 2014
Celebrating the U.S. of AgricultureBy Melissa George Kessler
How will you mark this Fourth of July? Family barbecue, apple pie, fireworks?
Why not add a celebration of agriculture to the festivities? After all, capturing wealth and joy from making the land productive drove our forefathers on the original Independence Day, and the fruits of today’s farms and ranches are vital to maintaining our freedom and prosperity.
The men who signed the Declaration of Independence wanted to be able to own land, produce goods, trade and grow within the bounds of their own form of government. In pledging their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to these principles, they inspire us to continue to improve our economy and society. Working the land has remained central to who we are as a people brought together by the dream of a better life.
Our continued independence rests on the rule of law, a fundamental belief in freedom and our status as a leader in innovation and inspiration. All of those are made possible only when there’s a stable agricultural system that people trust to provide the next meal.
Our farms contribute the food, fiber and, increasingly, the fuel to meet our basic needs. This intricate and often misunderstood system of inputs, production, markets, transport and processing allows most Americans to focus on their work, families and futures. In a land of plenty, we often fail to appreciate how rare this has been throughout human history and how important it is to our continued progress and prosperity.
Our nation’s farms also contribute mightily to our national security by allowing us to be self-sufficient if we need to be. For the same reasons no one is surprised when lunch is just down the road at the restaurant or grocery store, the general public rarely thinks about the role food security plays in our national defense. However, our leaders have consistently recognized this crucial element and continue to support policies that help maintain our agricultural infrastructure.
In modern history, much of our energy has been devoted to growing agricultural trade and providing food assistance at crucial times. Trade not only creates wealth; it also increases vital ties with trade partners. It’s much more productive to share goods and build economies than to aim guns at one another. Sharing our abundance when and where it’s needed is also a form of soft power. Some of our greatest foreign policy successes in the post-war era have come from providing people in desperate need with gifts of food from the American people.
The values of owning and maintaining property are fundamental to our culture and our ethos, and striving to do better is one of the things that unites us most strongly. Farmers naturally embody these shared values in an increasingly urban and hectic world. In recent years, they have started to meet the call to tell their stories with authenticity and forthrightness and to bring people back to the land, even if just for an afternoon or the length of a YouTube video.
The things that we think of as inherently American wouldn’t exist without farms, ranches and the people who work them. Agriculture is as American as that apple pie it allows us to all have.
So as you eat up this weekend, remember to thank a farmer and give three cheers for the U.S. of Agriculture.
Melissa George Kessler is a writer, editor and organization development consultant working in agriculture.