There are a few statistics that are thrown around in the ag community so often that most farmers know them off the top of their head. The first that comes to mind is the fact that 97% of all farms are family owned, that one’s a personal favorite of mine. It’s important for people to know that while we’re making big strides in modernizing agriculture, we’re still holding on to some of the tradition. Family being the biggest one.
The second statistic is that farmers account for less than 2% of the population. That’s a little trickier. Farmers try to use it to impress upon people the importance of what we do and how efficient we’ve become. So little of the population is providing food for so many – how crazy is that?
But I’m wondering if we’re doing it right? Are we really leaving them with an impression of astonishment or one of entitlement? Do they think that we believe we need to be celebrated because there’s so few of us? Or maybe we’re making them think we feel oppressed? Maybe it’s time to flip the script.
Guys, we are less than 2% of the population. We’re the elite, the privileged. Maybe it’s not that hard to dig a hole in the ground and plant a seed, but we know that what we do is so much more than that. How many people possess the skills that farmers do? Just today, on our dairy farms, we all performed the skills of a veterinarian, a general laborer, a mechanic, a builder, an agronomist, an investigator, and a truck driver.
If you walked up to a person on the street and said, in the next week, find a way to provide enough food to feed your entire family for the following week. Do you think they would even know where to start? My favorite thing to tell the elementary aged students is that they get to be whatever they want to be or do whatever they want to do because there are farmers. We exist to raise and grow food so others can reach for the stars, literally. There are astronauts because we’ve taken on the ridiculously important task of feeding people so a man could walk on the moon and, maybe someday, Mars.
Farming, especially dairy farming, has been impossible for years now. Instead of being angry that our small community is smaller than ever, maybe we need to change our perspective. We may not be as elite as astronauts, but we’re still part of a club we can be proud of.
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.