My job at Ozarks Farm & Neighbor allows me to do what I love most, write stories about farmers and ranchers, and talking about what they do on their farms. It’s pretty awesome, and I learn something new with every interview.
When I worked at a small daily, the reporters under me cringed when I said the county fair was coming up or assigned them a farm-related story. They didn’t believe our readership was interested. I didn’t feel I could even send one reporter to the fairgrounds. He said was it was “not possible” to take pictures at a hog show, and he tended to be on the “anti” side of many of today’s farming practices. Another reporter told me he “didn’t like to get dirty.”
Except for items made from metal, stone, and petroleum-based plastics, nearly everything we use has a relationship to the farm.
In 2019, 22.2 million full- and part-time jobs were related to the agricultural and food sectors – 10.9 percent of total U.S. employment, according to the USDA. Direct on-farm employment accounted for about 2.6 million jobs.
Think about your hometown; what jobs there are dependent on agriculture?
Let’s start with an easy one – your local grocery store. Even if it’s a small mom and pop operation with 10 employees, that’s 10 people who wouldn’t have a job because there were no farmers to produce and harvest food to be sold to consumers. Without farmers, there would be no restaurants or fast-food places, companies to process the food, or truckers to deliver raw products from the farm or finished products to the store.
Aside from food, there would be limited clothing options without farmers. Polyester/nylon pants would soon replace our always-popular denim jeans. For those around in the 1970s, it’s a fashion statement we all hope remains silent.
Critics of the industry tend to forget there’s more at stake in our world than just farmers and ranchers. According to the USDA, agriculture, food and related industries contributed $1.109 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, a 5.2-percent share. The output of America’s farms contributed $136.1 billion of this sum – about 0.6 percent of GDP. The overall contribution of agriculture to GDP is larger than 0.6 percent because sectors related to agriculture rely on agricultural inputs to contribute added value to the economy.
Sectors related to agriculture include not only food and beverage manufacturing and food services, but textiles, apparel and leather products; and forestry and fishing.
Agriculture is the backbone of everything we do, and without it, it would only be a matter of time before the world as we know would cease to exist. The economy would tank in a matter of days, and people would starve to death; society would crumble.
My former staff may not have seen the need to cover agriculture in our newspaper, but we all should be interested in agriculture – unless you like being hungry, naked and unemployed.
Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]