Celebrate the Farmer this Thanksgiving

By Marianne Smith Edge, Senior Vice President, Nutrition and Food Safety for the IFIC Foundation

Recently I returned to the family farm in Northern Kentucky to visit my 86 year old parents and reflect on their years of constant labor on the now cow-less dairy farm. All the while, I was appreciating that I’m one of the lucky ones to experience the farm-to-fork process! Growing up on a dairy farm was not deemed glamorous by me or my friends, but maturity brings wisdom, so as I look back, here are some of my reflections:

Farming is a risky business, regardless of the type or size of farm one has. There was never a morning that the weather report wasn’t blaring as my parents were eating their breakfast while determining if it was the right day to cut hay, plant corn, turn the cows out to pasture or plant a garden. And weather is only one factor; the economic conditions were of even greater concern. What would be the cost of seed, equipment, or veterinary care? Would the price of milk cover the cost of doing business and provide for the family?

Farming is hard work! Even with the mechanization of milking cows or planting crops, manual labor is still required! For over 50 years my parents rose prior to 5am 365 days/year to face the gentle moos of those “demanding” females needing to be fed and milked….and that was only the start of the day! Between the usual 5am and 5pm milkings, planting/harvesting of crops, cutting hay or preparing food for the family was the routine! My brother and I learned responsibility at an early age, knowing that regardless of school or extra curriculum activities, the daily chores would still be waiting. I can still hear the bawling of those hungry calves if I returned late from my high school activities!

Farmers love their land! As a fifth generation farm owner, I can speak from experience that regardless of the type of farming, farmers do value their land. Over the years, farming practices have become more advanced allowing minimal tillage of soil, thereby reducing erosion, or planting crops that will yield more bushels or pounds per acre to help feed the growing global population. Sustaining production land is important to the future of agriculture, but when I last visited, as I looked across the road of our aging dairy barn on the forty acres that we once rented, I saw another “crop” growing--houses! A “crop” that is the “fruit of the labor” for some but reflects the growing trend of less land to produce more for more people!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us also celebrate the generations of farmers who have been and are dedicated to providing food for us! They are the “root” of our survival.