altReady or not, the holiday season is here, which means diets are out the window for many of us as gatherings with family and friends center around food.

The holidays are when some of those “special” foods make an appearance. I like my mother-in-law’s sweet potatoes, and then there’s that sweet potato casserole she will occasionally make. Because I’m the only one in my household who will eat sweet potatoes, I have to get my fix at her house for the holidays.

The Crock-Pot corn and cheesy potatoes my sisters-in-law make are phenomenal as well. Then there are the pies and cakes my nieces make, and those Oreo and cream cheese balls covered in chocolate – amazing. The menus of our holiday tables may differ, but they all have something in common – it took farmers to make it all come together.

From the flour to the butter, the turkey to the ham, the cranberries to the green beans, farmers are a needed ingredient to create our holiday feasts.

Even vegetarians and vegans who opt to celebrate with a Tofu “turkey” have to give kudos to our soybean producers for the production of soymilk used to make the Tofu, as well as the other farmers who toiled the soil to grow the produce they enjoy.

Society, in general, seems to have forgotten how important agriculture is. Many Americans today simply go to the store, pick up what they want, check out and go home. They don’t think about what it takes to produce their food, and how many people it has taken to get that product on the shelf. The farmers and ranchers producing the raw ingredients are just the beginning of the process. Agriculture is not only the core of our small and rural communities; it’s the building block of our society.

American consumers also seem to forget the U.S. has a stable food supply thanks to our farmers and ranchers. There’s no need to stand in line for hours at a time just to receive a cup of rice and hope there’s still some available when it’s your turn.

According to an American Farm Bureau Federation report, Americans spend only 4.8 percent of their disposable income on food, not including food purchased at restaurants. In contrast, the poorest countries in the world spend the highest percentage of income on food. For example, Nigerians only spend about 40 percent as much money for food as Americans in raw dollar terms. But, Nigeria’s lower median income means about 59 percent of disposable income goes to food-at-home purchases, according to the AFBF.

Food isn’t the only product of agriculture. Oils, resins, fibers, clothing, medications, energy, cosmetics and plastics are just a few of the other products with ties to agriculture.

I’m thankful for our farms of all sizes this holiday season for their hard work, day in and day out to not only put food on their tables but mine as well. Thank you for being a farmer.

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]

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