By Robin Kinney
Nearly 40 years ago as I started my career in agriculture communications, the week leading up to Thanksgiving celebrated those who live on the land and care for critters (livestock), while recognizing the important partnership farmers have with consumers. Farm-City Week celebrated the harvest and the abundance of affordable and nutritious food available to American families and for export around the world. With that in mind, now is a good time to remember our blessings and celebrate what we have in common.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, shop and find entertainment. We miss meeting friends at the local foodie hot spot and enjoying a meal but have found ways to handle the disruption by adjusting our lives, applying new technology and simply being grateful. One positive outcome during this time of social distancing is that the food chain, from the field to the fork and the gate to the plate, has received some appreciation as Americans have been reminded that agriculture and all of those along the food chain are essential to everyday life.
Rarely have Americans needed to be concerned about the production, distribution or preparation of their meals. It’s true that from time to time, the food supply has been disrupted by Mother Nature, including blizzards, floods and hurricanes. As consumers we often take for granted 24-hour grocery stores with shelves full of food and tasty treats as well as a variety of other products we need. As we rush through our everyday lives, we fill our grocery carts without a thought and take for granted the ease of meals and other items delivered to our door thanks to online services.
After a challenging year, maybe you’re like me and have found time to pause and be thankful for so many little things. As a consumer, I am thankful that our food chain works and that our farm and ranch families never missed a beat and are #StillFarming. I’m thankful for all the employees in the food chain that make it work, from the truckers to the processing plant workers, to those that work in marketing and manufacturing and are involved in the distribution system.
As a former city kid with no connection to the farm, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to move with my family to the farm when I was in high school. That move and a caring FFA advisor provided me with a deeper appreciation and insight into the important partnership those in agriculture have with the consumer. Working in agriculture and alongside farm and ranch families across this nation is satisfying, important work and hopefully we help make a difference.
Looking at how the pandemic has affected hunger in America, according to recent analysis from Feeding America, the number of people in the U.S. who are food insecure in 2020 could rise to more than 50 million, including 17 million children. Donations and contributions of any size can help make a difference to our most vulnerable neighbors. During the pandemic I have looked for opportunities to provide for those less fortunate by making a financial and a personal contribution of time to the local food pantry and a homeless shelter in my area.
“Not having a turkey would have been sad. I’m excited that we have one now. It helps our family celebrate what we have.” -Jaylen, 8— Feeding America (@FeedingAmerica) November 21, 2020
You can take action this holiday season to help your neighbors who may not have enough. https://t.co/j4xVgJ5XOT pic.twitter.com/dL3LmLvn0I
This Thanksgiving will be different than any other, but it can be memorable when we think about the friendships we have cultivated and maintained at a distance thanks to technology. Celebrating via Zoom might not be the same as sitting at the dinner table and passing the turkey in person, but no matter the miles and the distance I hope you will find some time to think about how amazing life is thanks to those that “keep on keeping on.” No matter if you are from the farm or the city, we need each other, and we are stronger together. Blessings to you and yours as you celebrate the end of harvest, feast on the remembrance of valued friendships and savor the traditions of a bountiful Thanksgiving season.
Robin Kinney is senior director, member engagement at the American Farm Bureau Federation.