​MULVIHILL: Don’t take farmers for granted

Americans should consider the valuable services farmers provide before writing them off

farmer_and_tractor_tilling_soil

Americans shouldn't overlook the significant impact farmers have on their lives.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

When one considers the most underrated professions in the United States, of the many that come to mind, few are so vital to the American public as that of the family farmer. There are two million farms in the United States, and 99 percent of those farms are run by families. Additionally, family farms around the world produce three-quarters of the world’s food supply. In spite of these figures, many Americans continue to undervalue farmers. The stereotypical image of a farmer as a “middle-aged, uneducated white men with beer bellies” is lampooned in films and contributes to the lack of respect for the profession. In truth, farmers work long hours, are often well-educated and provide a service to the American public and the world which should not be overlooked.

American farms produce goods and services which should be acknowledged and appreciated. Annually, each American farm feeds an average of 168 people. Given the high quantity of farms around the United States, the gross production by American farmers provides a significant amount of food to people around the world. However, in spite of this contribution to the tables and pantries of American families, farmers are looked down upon. The farm products which remain in the United States are piled onto the shelves of grocery stores and largely split from the family farmers who produce it. There seems to be an attitude that fruits, vegetables and meats magically appear on the shelves of stores to be consumed by customers, but the work which goes into the production of these goods should not be disregarded.

Furthermore, there is an overwhelming assumption that farmers are uneducated and continue to farm because it is their only option. On the contrary, many farmers are well-educated and universities around the United States offer programs in agricultural science and similar fields to adequately train those who produce the nation’s food supplies. To produce quality crops and livestock, farmers must analyze soil quality, understand the precise resources needed to produce maximum output and, in the case of livestock farmers, have a good deal of veterinary knowledge in case of emergencies. Furthermore, farmers work with dangerous, complex equipment, so they must have a strong base knowledge of how to operate these machines to avoid injury or death.

The amount of time invested into a career in farming should also not be underestimated. Crops and animals are not raised in a week and farming requires a time commitment that is far beyond that of a typical occupation. While most American professionals work from nine to five Monday through Friday, many farmers are constantly on call. Additionally, the patterns of production leave little time for vacation, and in the case of small family-run operations, farmers cannot leave hundreds of livestock to take a weekend off at the beach. Modern farmers not only dedicate a majority of their time to their occupations, but they also produce goods in vastly more efficient manners than their counterparts in 1950. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, today’s farmers produce “262 percent more food with two percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared with 1950.” Farmers are producing more than in years past, and are using fewer resources to do so.

For all they provide to the American public and the world, family farmers should be celebrated rather than judged. Without the capable men and women who own and staff America’s farms, our economic impact on the world’s food production industry would drastically decrease. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, “$133.1 billion worth of American agricultural products were exported around the world in 2015. The United States sells more food and fiber to world markets than we import, creating a positive agricultural trade balance.” American farmers have an extraordinarily positive impact on the nation as a whole and we should not take them for granted.

Carly Mulvihill is the Senior Associate Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at c.mulvihill@cavalierdaily.com.

related stories