The 37th annual National Ag Day was held throughout the country on March 20 to celebrate the importance of agriculture in our country. As part of the celebration, seventh through twelfth grade students across the country were encouraged to write a 450-word essay based on this year's topic: American Agriculture - Abundant, Affordable, Amazing. The Agriculture Council of America coordinates the contest and recently announced state winners in addition to one national winner. That lucky student is Christine Vanek, a high school senior from Ann Arbor, Mich. Vanek was awarded during an Ag Day event held in Washington, D.C. At the event, she read her essay to industry representatives, members of Congress, federal agency representatives, media and others. Below is her essay:

As we drive west with the setting sun through the last miles of Iowa, I stare out my window in awe. The fields stretch uninterrupted to the horizon, and the sky is a beautiful abundance of fading blue. I know that I am almost home.

Although my family lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, our roots are anchored deep in the Nebraska soil. My appreciation for the importance of American agriculture comes from my experience out at my grandparents' farm. I remember as a small child riding in the tractor with my grandpa as he disked a field in preparation for planting, folding the old corn stalks from last year's crop into the dirt. I remember going along with him one fall in the combine, fascinated at the machine's ability to get the ears off the stalk and the corn off the ears, shooting the kernels into the storage space and spitting out the unusable remainder.

At the age of seven, my mind could not grasp the abundance that is American agriculture. I could not comprehend the space of even one field, which itself was granted my awe. At seventeen, I have come to admire the work that my grandfather and all American farmers do. It is thanks to the abundance of American agriculture -- from the corn, soybean, and wheat fields of the Great Plains to the expansive fruit orchards in the South -- that I, along with the rest of the country, have access to a wide variety of affordable, safe, nutritious foods.

I am thankful as well for the affordability of agriculture in America. My ancestors came to America less than two hundred years ago to escape forced service in the Czechoslovakian army. They did not have a large amount of wealth, but due to the affordability of American agriculture, they were able to build a small house and begin their own modest farm. Living frugally and working the land with dedication, they built up a life and livelihood for themselves in America.

I am a product of American agriculture, and I can testify to its greatness. This spring, I was walking to the pivot in the field on my grandparents' farm, when I stopped to tie my shoe. As I stood back up, I looked at the scene around me, taking it in in a way I hadn't while I was walking. I have experienced no more perfect a moment in my life than standing there with the sun warming my back, looking out at that vast, intensely blue sky with the deep green corn plants stretching for miles beneath it.

Don't forget to stop over at Bonnie's Brush with Hoard's to hear from Bonnie on how the Foster Mothers of the Human Race Painting is coming!