All the holiday celebrating this season has got me thinking about food – how much we love it, how much need it and, all too often, how much we take it for granted.

Recently, one of the speakers at the 2019 Iowa Farm Bureau annual meeting said something that stuck with me. Larry Tranel, an Iowa State University Extension dairy specialist and ordained minister, reminded the audience that farmers serve an essential role in providing food, fiber and fuel for the world’s growing population.

“Farmers allow us all to do the jobs we do ...,” Tranel said. “In addition, they take all the weather risk. They take the financial risk. They work long hours. Farmers don’t realize how valuable they are and what they do for us as a society.”

In other words, if it weren’t for farmers, I wouldn’t be able to pursue my chosen career - with a steady paycheck, employee benefits and a comfortable, climate-controlled office indoors.

According to the American Farm Bureau, farm and ranch families comprise only 2% of the U.S. population.

Yet because of their work, Americans only spend 10% of their disposable income on food), the least amount of any other country.

One American farm today feeds 166 people in the United States and abroad, compared to just 26 people in 1960.

In addition, farmers don’t get enough credit for all they do to give back to their communities. Farmers are community volunteers – working as paramedics and firefighters; teaching Sunday school; and serving on school, library, museum and hospital boards.

I’ve met farmers who have started small-town restaurants, agritourism destinations and, in one instance, a roller-skating rink as a way to bring culture and entertainment to their rural towns.

Iowa’s 100 county Farm Bureaus also deserve a shout-out for their volunteer efforts and contributions to local communities.

In my home county, the Boone County Farm Bureau hosts an annual harvest breakfast for the community, sponsors the county fair and organizes a “Pack the (Tractor) Cab” food drive to support local food pantries.

Several county Farm Bureaus host “milk drives” at local grocery stores to donate protein-rich milk to families in need. They bring Ag in the Classroom lessons into schools, and they donate funds for new safety equipment for first responders in rural areas.

Indeed, the season of giving continues all season long for farm families. We are all so fortunate to have Iowa farmers as our neighbors, friends and community leaders.

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is Iowa Farm Bureau's Senior Features Writer.