Today is National Ag Day, and at the heart of agriculture is the farmer.
I am privileged to have many past and present farmers among my family and friends. Hopefully, for the sake of all of us who want to keep eating, there will be some future farmers in my life, too.
After receiving a distinguished dairy breeder award a few weeks ago, one of my uncles who farms concluded his acceptance speech by saying, “I am 70 years old now, and I wish I had 70 more years to do this.”
That comment really stuck with me. How many people are so deeply connected to their career that they wish they could do it for another 70 years? That is one of the unique aspects of farming; it can be a job that starts in childhood and continues well past retirement age. While farming is a physically, mentally, and financially demanding occupation, it can also be rewarding, enjoyable, and challenging in many good ways.
Some people farm their whole lives because they have no desire to retire. Some farm their whole lives because they feel a responsibility to keep the operation going. Others may want to farm forever but end up leaving the farm or selling it for one reason or another.
No two farmers are the same, and neither are any two farms. Some operations may look picture perfect from the road, but struggles could be pulling the family apart. Another farm may seem disorganized but could be a successful business that’s moving toward a profitable future.
No matter what the situation, these farmers will head out to the barn every day to get the work done. Animals will be cared for, crops will be tended to, and the daily tasks completed, no matter what. Because that is what farmers do. That is their commitment to their animals, their farm, and the consumer, and that is part of what we commemorate today.
National Ag Day was founded by the Agriculture Council of America in 1973. The first National Ag Day was celebrated by the organization in 1979. This day is meant to honor the efforts of people related to agriculture and promote awareness about this field of work among the general public.
Many people are involved in the important process of getting food from farm to fork. It all starts with the farmers, though. Whether they farm for a few years, a few decades, or their whole lives, these people are where production agriculture begins.
Thank you to the hardworking farmers everywhere. I am grateful for the job you do all year long, and there’s no doubt you deserve to be celebrated every day.
The author is the senior associate editor and covers animal health, dairy housing and equipment, and nutrient management. She grew up on a dairy farm near Plymouth, Wis., and previously served as a University of Wisconsin agricultural extension agent. She received a master’s degree from North Carolina State University and a bachelor’s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.