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On this year’s National Ag Day, I’ve never been more thankful for farmers

Iowa farm family

It’s been one year since the COVID-19 pandemic shook our everyday routines, and I’ve been reflecting a lot on how life has changed since March 2020.

A year ago, I was shopping at the grocery store (without a mask!) and hoping the store wasn’t sold out of milk, eggs, bread and – what’s still astounding to me – toilet paper.

And I remember finding sales at the grocery store for items I had never seen offered before: giant packages of chicken hindquarters and 10-pound tubes of ground beef.

With most restaurants shut down, the excess of food that would normally go to foodservice establishments was channeled to the retail market.

But one thing that struck me the most, while I adjusted to my new work-from-home reality, was how farmers along my route to the grocery store continued their work to plant crops in the spring – no matter the collective panic that was happening outside their tractor cabs.

As we grew to realize, Iowa farmers are essential workers. So, too, are all the people who help farmers care for livestock and get the crops in the ground, including veterinarians and those in seed sales, agronomy and farm equipment repair.

If anything, this past pandemic year has made us appreciate more than ever how much we depend on the work of Iowa farm families and their support network.

As spring planting season approaches and farmers return to the fields, Iowans are invited to help celebrate National Ag Day March 23 to recognize the contribution of agriculture and farmers in our everyday lives.

After all, agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear each day — not just on Ag Day.

Thanks to the productivity and hard work of U.S. farmers, Americans spent an average of 9.5% of their disposable personal incomes on food in 2019, a historical low, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In addition, one U.S. farm today feeds about 166 people here in the U.S. and abroad annually, the USDA reports.

Agriculture and its related industries also provide 10.9% of U.S. employment, the USDA says.

Unfortunately, fewer Americans today understand the work that farmers do and how our food is grown and raised. Farm and ranch families comprise less than 2% of the U.S. population, the USDA reports.

Yet here in Iowa, where our economy is dependent on agriculture, we are all connected to farmers – either through our jobs as teachers, health care providers, small business owners and more.

I encourage you to join the National Ag Day celebration on March 23.

Share a post on social media about what agriculture means to you.

Cook a family meal using Iowa-grown ingredients, or shop for local meats at a nearby meat locker or online.

Plan an activity to teach kids (or adults) about the importance of agriculture. You can find lesson plans and ideas for fun learning activities from the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation.

Even better, give back to your community. Donate to a local food pantry, or make a donation to the Iowa 4-H, Iowa FFA or Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation to support ag education efforts in the state.

For more National Ag Day updates, follow the Iowa Farm Bureau on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or visit www.iowafarmbureau.com.

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is Iowa Farm Bureau's senior communications coordinator.