Eco Talk: Why it's good to learn about how food and fiber are produced

Eco Talk: Why it's good to learn about how food and fiber are produced

Owasco Lake Cows 3.JPG

Cows graze on a hillside looking east over Owasco Lake.

I hope you will join me and others in celebrating National Ag Day on March 24. This annual event, which occurs in March, provides a time when farmers and ranchers, agricultural associations, universities and countless others associated with, and some not directly associated with, agriculture gather to recognize and celebrate the bounty that American agriculture provides us.

National Ag Day began in 1973 by the Agriculture Council of America, a nonprofit organization. The ACA believes that every American should understand how food and fiber are produced; appreciates the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable food and fiber products; values the role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy; and acknowledges the diverse career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.

National Ag Day was started to increase public awareness about American agriculture. As the world population increases there will be an even greater demand for the food and fiber that are produced in the US. Our farmers are up to the challenge to meet this demand given the tools and technology they have at their disposal.

In order to fully understand the value of agriculture in our daily lives, everyone is encouraged to increase their understanding of agriculture through ag literacy. By becoming better informed and increasing our knowledge of agriculture and nutrition we can make more informed choices about our diets and health.

The number of career opportunities that exist in the broad range of agriculture include on farm production; agribusiness marketing and management; agricultural research and engineering; food science; processing and retail; agricultural lending and banking; agricultural education; landscape architecture including urban planning; and even energy. While many people still think of agriculture as using a pitch fork and shovel, many of today’s careers require advanced college degrees even for many on farm positions.

Ag literacy should begin in early grade school and continue through high school. Agriculture is too important a topic to be taught to only those interested in pursuing a career. To be literate in agriculture one needs an understanding of its history as well as the economic contribution it makes to our communities.

Unfortunately due to the CoVID-19 outbreak, the reading of an agriculture-related book titled “Right This Very Minute,” which was scheduled to be read by volunteers throughout the state to second graders, has been postponed. For those with students at home, consider going to your county’s 4-H program located on the county’s CCE website to learn more about this book. For those in Seneca County more information is available at and click on the 4-H Youth Development link.

My first encounter with Ag Day was in 1976 at the University of Delaware, where I was doing my undergraduate degree in soil science. The Ag College held a farm animal walk through on the main mall. Even then there were people who had never seen a live cow or sheep. From there it quickly evolved to hosting an Ag Day Fair experience at the ag college and has grown to a significant event with plant sales and tours of the university’s farm facilities.

There are other National Ag Day educational resources provided by the ACA to explore. These can be found at and click on the Education Tab. With students at home this might be a good time to learn more about agriculture and then reflect how agriculture is part of our community.

Just a friendly reminder that agriculture provides almost everything we eat and even wear every day. According to the American Farm Bureau, one U.S. farm feeds 166 people each year. Several generations ago most Americans were directly connected to some form of agriculture or had a relative that was. Today society is so accustomed to getting whatever they need from the grocery store or restaurant they do not know how their food is being produced.

I think we all have recently experienced the surprise of walking into the grocery store and finding many shelves empty. Fortunately the supply chains at work and there is food in the warehouses. As I have said recently more than once; the cows are still producing milk, the chickens are still laying eggs and our livestock farmers still have livestock available — there is no need to panic.

If you are looking to avoid grocery store consider buying local. A list of local suppliers is available at Stay well in the coming days and try to find a few extra minutes to explore where you food comes from.

Judy Wright is the senior agriculture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County. For more information, visit or call (315) 539-9251 ext. 109.


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