In recent months, farmers and ranchers have been in the spotlight. And, thankfully, it has been a bright and positive one. The Super Bowl included the Dodge Ram commercial featuring Paul Harvey’s voice-over of an FFA speech titled “So God Made a Farmer.” There probably wasn’t a dry eye in any agricultural area in the country when that came on.
Before that, the Peterson brothers from Assaria, Kansas, produced a YouTube video that went viral — reaching more than 8 million people worldwide with their rap “I’m Farming and I Grow It.” Their second sensation has more than 12 million hits and is a parody called “Working Farmer-Style.” If you haven’t seen these videos, take a few moments to check them out.
So the farming community got some good publicity and hopefully, the general public’s perception of what we do here in the heartland of America was favorably impacted. Why is that important? Well, for me, there are a few significant reasons.
Education is the No. 1 priority when it comes to informing urban residents about what we do in agriculture. Misconcep-tions abound, and it’s hard to get the truth out when it’s hard to get the word out.
People shop for food and eat every day, but they are more apt to see and hear propaganda from movements other than those of the conventional farming kind. Farmers have never been known to draw attention to what they do. This has caused a growing segment of the population to lose touch with the heart of the food and fiber industry — family-owned farms. Almost 98 percent of the farms in our country are traditional family operations.
Traveling down Kansas highways, motorists will see signs announcing that “One Kansas Farmer Feeds Over 155 People.” I wish similar signs could be erected in Times Square in or in neon above the expressways of Chicago. Those are the audiences that are far removed from where their food originates and could use a strong dose of farm facts.
Appreciation is another factor in sharing the story of farming. Just like Paul Harvey’s tribute from long ago, my heart swells because of the work ethic and dedication I see all around me in the farming community. Good people raising good crops, farmers are folks willing to help a neighbor in need, volunteer for community service and give up a lifetime of weekends to care for God’s land and livestock. Farmers willingly face nature’s extreme year round to ensure that you and I have the best quality meats, dairy and produce available. They want to focus on raising nutritious, healthy crops while leaving all the hoopla to others. But they do have a story to tell, a banner to wave, and work that matters.
Though nationally, there has been a decline in the number of farms, the National Agricul-tural Statistics Services’ annual report shows that the number of farms in Kansas was unchanged in 2012 with 65,500 farms in operation. The average farm size also stayed the same at 702 acres.
March 19 — Tuesday — is National Agriculture Day. It seems to always fall during spring break and go relatively unnoticed. Hopefully you will see a poster or hear a radio spot. It never seems enough, though, to ingrain in our consciousness the reality of the bigger picture. Getting the public to understand that farm families in rural areas across America work daily to provide the many healthy, nutritious choices that line grocery store shelves is a task that farmers don’t have time to stop and worry about. They will feed us regardless of whether they ever get a pat on the back or not. We should all be thankful for that.
Mary Mertz is a member of River Creek Farms, a fourth-generation grain and livestock operation, east of Manhattan.”