If your home is anything like ours, I’ll bet it has already begun to look a lot like Christmas. There’s something truly special about the traditions that unite us as families and communities—from decorating the tree to baking cookies or sharing a meal. The holidays are also a time to be especially ag proud. When you stop to think on it, a good many of our holiday traditions wouldn’t be the same, or even possible, without the year-round hard work of farmers and ranchers. In so many ways, Christmas begins on the farm.
Let’s start by considering the holiday table. The feasts we enjoy this time of year are affordable and abundant thanks to America’s hardworking farmers and ranchers. As farmers and ranchers, we play a part in family celebrations that take place all over our country. What a great time to share with consumers how their baked ham and turkey, fresh vegetables and mashed potatoes get to their table! Good food brings people together, and folks need to understand the hard work and careful stewardship that goes into growing and raising our favorite holiday dishes. Whether you’re enjoying roast turkey or prime rib, sweet potatoes or green bean casserole, there’s more than one farmer or rancher to thank for the food piled on your plate.
A favorite holiday tradition in the Duvall household, especially with the grandkids, is cookie baking—and of course, sampling. The best gingerbread and sugar cookies get their start with ingredients straight from the farm. We all know those delicious treats that we share with friends and neighbors wouldn’t be possible without eggs, butter, flour, and plenty of sugar. Even a plate of holiday treats can be a chance to share the importance of agriculture. After all, without a dairy farmer, how would Santa—not to mention his many helpers—get that glass of milk to boost his energy and complete his mission?
And what would Christmas be without a fresh-cut tree? Folks who, otherwise, may never step foot on a farm take their families out to local Christmas tree farms and lots—maybe even the same place their parents and grandparents visited—to pick out or chop down their own trees and buy garland to make the season bright. There’s just something about this time of year that sparks in each of us a desire to be together and carry on the traditions of the generations who came before us. We may not all get the chance to meet the farmer who grew our tree, of course, but we can all be certain a great deal of year-round care went into growing and nurturing the trees our families will gather around to share stories, exchange gifts and maybe even sing a carol or two.
I hope each of you takes a minute to think about the opportunities we have as farm and ranch families to share the joy of the season with families around the country and the world. Most of all, I pray you will each be surrounded with the love of your families and communities. And finally, that you will remember the reason we all celebrate. Some two thousand years ago the greatest gift we could ever receive, a Savior, arrived in a humble stable in Bethlehem, and angels announced His birth to a group of shepherds. “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
I wish you a blessed holiday season filled with bounty from the farm, and a very merry Christmas!
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. You can follow him on Twitter @ZippyDuvall.