Agriculture: What is it, who is it and why is it important?

Agriculture by definition is the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products. But to me “agriculture” means people. It is the farmers I work with daily to help promote and protect their way of life, it is my neighbors, my friends, my family and our future. Most of all Agriculture is me.

This week we will celebrate National Agriculture Week, a week set aside each year to celebrate the food and fiber industry that provides one in seven jobs in Ohio alone and is over $130 billion dollar industry to the United States. This industry is less than 2 percent of our population and each U.S. farmer feeds over 168 people annually here and abroad. Whether you prefer organic, free range, non gmo or traditional products in your family’s diet, all of these products were produced on farms across our county and in our neighborhoods.

Today, agriculture is at the forefront of new technology and is redefining how we produce our crops and raise our animals. This is evident in the evolution of our industry in the last 60 years, which has allowed our nation to supply the most abundant and safe food source in the world. An illustration of this is that today farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, and fertilizer) compared to 1950. They are doing this using science to develop stronger plants, help learn more efficient ways to feed animals and using technology to optimize our growing methods. By using this new technology and science, today’s farmers are improving their farms products as well as being more mindful of protecting our natural resources.

However, in today’s society there is a definite disconnect or misunderstanding about what my family has done for generations. Most people are unsure of how their food is produced and unfamiliar with the methods and science farmers use to produce it. Because, of this gap in understanding and in information, fear tactics and bad marketing is used to sell food to consumers that uses statements that are just not true nor based on actuals facts. This is especially true in their areas of geneticaally modified organisms and the methods of animal husbandry used to produce meat, milk and eggs. So what I ask of you during national agriculture week is to ask a farmer if you don’t understand terms, processes and how we grow or raise your food. We can help you understand why we do what we do, you may not always agree with some of the methods, but that is why there are so many choices today on how you want to buy your food.

If you don’t know who to ask, use some of these great sources:

• BestFoodFacts.org helps dispel food myths;

• Learn more about genetically modified organisms and why we use them at www.gmoanswers.com;

• U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance tackles all kinds of agriculture and food production questions at www.fooddialogues.com; and

• Ohio Farm Bureau discusses what is happening in Ohio agriculture at www.ofbf.org and togetherwithfarmers.org.

Finally, I hope you can all help celebrate the hard work of an industry that is necessary to every aspect of our daily lives. Whether it is the food that we are eating today or the products we use in our daily lives, agriculture is growing them. Today let’s celebrate Together With Farmers.

Jill Smith is Organization Director for the Ohio Farm Bureau serving Auglaize, Logan, Mercer, Shelby and Union counties. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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