Happy National Ag Day! Have you ever sat down to think about where you’d be without agriculture? I haven’t, and this is an especially important day to do so.
In college, we celebrated by hosting Ag Day on the Quad, offering a peek into the world of agriculture to our classmates wondering why there were two giant tractors sitting in front of Schroeder Hall. Another year, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. with the Ag Future of America Ag Policy Institute, where we kicked off the day over breakfast with former Secretary Vilsack and spent the remainder of the day visiting our legislators.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to do to acknowledge National Ag Day this year. My life has become more consistent and “boring” since I launched my career almost three years ago. But agriculture hasn’t left my life. In fact, my life still revolves around agriculture, even here in the city. Why not celebrate National Ag Day by talking about how important agriculture is to me?
Let’s start from the beginning. I grew up on a corn and soybean farm, born to parents who grew up farm kids, who were born to parents who were also farm kids (this probably cycles back through several generations). We had the usual Midwestern childhood: tractor rides in the spring, combine rides in the fall, and loving on the barn kittens in between. I remember counting down the days until I turned eight and immediately joined 4-H when I was eligible the following September. Several years later, I joined FFA. Somewhere towards the end of high school and under a lot of pressure to “decide” on a career so I could pick a college major, I finally realized that agriculture was a viable career option (duh, Gracie– your dad has a full-time off-farm job in agriculture) And then it wasn’t until about halfway through college that I really figured out what my best fit was within the agriculture industry. I also realized really quick in college that growing up on a farm wasn’t considered normal, which led to me starting the first iteration of this blog. Then came college graduation. And then an ag communications job offer and a move that resulted in me living in a major city with a dot on the national map– the one place I’d always assumed I wouldn’t end up living in.
I guess you could say I live and breathe agriculture, even when physically removed from the farm.
Agriculture is a vital, complex industry, with something for almost everybody. Seriously. Think about the huge variety of jobs available just here in the United States in the ag industry. Sales, marketing, advertising, computers, science, veterinary medicine, communication, teaching…the list goes on and on (and on and on). My point is that agriculture is so much more than farming, which is great because it allows others who aren’t lucky enough to be one of the two million farmers to be involved in the industry they love.
Agriculture is a lifestyle, but it’s also a community. Everyone knows everyone in a small town for a rural “neighborhood” (consisting of all of the homes in a 10+ square mile radius). Agriculturalists have proven that they’ll drop everything to help fellow agriculturalists in need, like getting a crop out of a field when a farmer is down or assistance with hay and other necessary supplies following the recent wildfires in Kansas, Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma. They deserve recognition, even if they choose to shy away from the TV cameras or if the media doesn’t show up at all. That’s what today is for.
Frankly, I don’t know where I would be without ag.
4-H and FFA probably wouldn’t exist, so I’d have grown up without strong involvement in a youth organization and likely wouldn’t be involved in community service projects like the food pantry my 4-H club established or the community vegetable and flower gardens we care for.
I wouldn’t have particularly strong ties to any one region of the country. Sure, I’d gravitate towards where my family lived, but my family members would probably stray further away if they weren’t tied to the land.
I wouldn’t have found my passion. Agriculture has allowed me to curate many of my interests and focus my efforts towards doing something productive with my life. The excitement of springtime, knowing that planting is near and that the view from my bedroom window
would be a solid mass of green. Growing flowers and vegetables in a garden, knowing that somewhere, somehow, you did something right to coax anything from that packet of tiny seeds. The hands-on 4-H projects learning things that you wouldn’t in school. The county fair. The freshness of the outdoors. The thrill and closure of harvest. It’s an annual cycle and I’d be totally lost without it.
National Ag Day is about celebrating the industry that we love. Ag has been at the wheel throughout my life, whether I realized it or not. It’s an industry that fuels my passion. I’ll figure out how to get back to the farm someday. Until then, I’m totally content doing my part from the city because I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.