Agriculture: Food for life

Tony Nye - OSU Extension

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker” — so God made a farmer.

I think you have heard or read this speech given at the 1978 Future Farmers of America convention by the famous radio personality, Paul Harvey. It was actually published for the first time in 1986 in his syndicated column.

This week we have been celebrating National Agriculture Week. It is quite fitting as we start getting ready for another cropping year. Many of us have been working hard already this year — calving, kidding, lambing and pigging on the livestock side.

National Agriculture Week is a time to acknowledge all those who contribute to the agriculture industry — farmers, ranchers, producers and others.

Over the years it not just the farmer but also the farmer’s wife, son and daughter that we celebrate.

Today, women make up 30 percent (969,672) of the total number of U.S. farm operators. Millennials (people aged 34 and under) includes 257,454 farmers. More than 20 percent of all farmers are beginning farmers (in business less than 10 years).

Here in Ohio there are 75,462 farms and two out of every five farms have at least one woman operator. Women are the principal operators on 12% of Ohio farms (8,702 women) and 27.9% of the 115,743 Ohio farm operators are women (32,237 women).

Today one U.S. farm feeds 165 people annually in the U.S. and abroad. The global population is expected to increase to 9.7 billion by 2050, which means the world’s farmers will have to grow about 70 percent more food than what is now produced.

Ohio is the top producer of Swiss cheese; third top producer of eggs and pumpkins; fourth top producer of tomatoes; seventh top producer of soybeans; and the eighth top producer of corn, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Agriculture is so important to the economy on a local level as well as a nation. In 2016, $135.5 billion worth of American agricultural products were exported around the world. The United States sells more food and fiber to world markets than we import, creating a positive agricultural trade balance.

Farming accounts for about 1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. And About 8 percent of U.S. farms market foods locally, through direct-to-consumer or intermediated sales.

Locally, corn, soybean and swine production are Clinton Counties three largest commodities produces and the last economic statistics from the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) notes that agriculture products produced in Clinton County generated well over $160, 000,000. Much of that staying close for our local economy.

The sad thing is that farmers and ranchers receive only 15 cents out of every dollar spent on food at home and away from home. The rest goes for costs beyond the farm gate: wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation and distribution.

In 1980, farmers and ranchers received 31 cents.

No matter whether our farm families are large producers or small producers, they all work hard and contribute so much to our day-to-day lives.

Take the time over the next few weeks to thank the farm families you know for all the hard work and effort they do to produce our food and fiber that we too often take for granted on a daily basis.

Remember, your food doesn’t just come from the grocery store, it has to start somewhere and that somewhere is at the farm gate. Happy National Agriculture Week.

Have a great spring and be safe during our upcoming planting season.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

Tony Nye

OSU Extension