RICHMOND, Va. — Agriculture is sort of a big word but a simple concept: at its heart, agriculture equals food. We all need to eat, so agriculture is a big deal. In fact as the state’s #1 private industry, it’s the biggest deal in Virginia. It’s also a very good deal.
In 1960, Americans spent almost 18 percent of disposable income on food consumed at home. By 2013, they were spending less than six percent. In other countries, consumers devote double and triple that percentage to food. (Source: USDA, Economic Research Service)
According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, March 19 to 25, is Virginia Agriculture Week and the ideal time to give some thought — and some thanks — to our farmers for all they do, all year round, for all of us.
No matter which food tops your list — barbecued chicken, juicy steaks, fluffy scrambled eggs, sweet strawberries, peanut butter sandwiches, steamed crabs, corn on the cob, ice-cold milk, thinly sliced country ham, local wine or beer and more — you can thank a farmer for all the plowing, planting, growing, cultivating and harvesting it took to put it on your table.
Virginia farmers also deserve a pat on the back for agriculture’s amazing diversity in the Commonwealth. Food is just the beginning. Also consider horses, lumber and wood products, wool and cotton fiber, bedding and garden plants, Christmas trees, tobacco, sod, foliage plants and cut flowers. For more than 400 years, farmers have provided Virginians with food, fiber and other essentials despite soaring temperatures, plummeting prices, daunting regulations and fluctuating market conditions.
Thank them, too, for constantly striving to improve agriculture over the last four centuries. By using innovative technology, the latest scientific information and a lot of hard work, farmers have increased agricultural efficiency. In the 1930s, one farmer supplied enough food for 9.8 people in the U.S. and abroad; by the 1960s, the number had grown to 25.8 people. In the 1990s, each farmer was feeding 129 people, and today a farmer is able to feed his or her own family plus 155 additional people around the world.
If you need another reason to thank a farmer, consider this: they are the people who provide you with green meadows, clear streams, beautiful vistas and a bunch of really cool equipment and adorable animals that they might let you ride, feed or pet if you stopped by. The least you could do during Virginia Agriculture Week is to thank them by buying Virginia grown or raised products wherever you shop.
— Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services