The colonists which settled our country faced many trials and obstacles in their quest to start a new nation, not the least of which was starvation. Food and the growth of agriculture were essential to their success. They persevered, agriculture grew, and we enjoy the fruits of their perseverance by living in the most blessed nation on earth. President George Washington proclaimed November 26, 1786, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”

Agriculture played a major role in the establishment and success of this great nation. Those early settlers realized, as we should today, that farmers are essential to a strong society. Let’s look at a few (of the many) reasons from the American Farm Bureau Federation why we should be thankful for these hardworking providers.

“Farm and ranch families comprise less than 2% of the U.S. population. One U.S. farm feeds 166 people annually in the U.S. and abroad.” In 1790 90% of the population were farmers. This increase in farm productivity has allowed us to focus on advances in fields of medicine, science, military and other areas that make our lives as comfortable and secure as they are today.

“Americans enjoy a food supply that is abundant, affordable overall and among the world’s safest, thanks in large part to the efficiency and productivity of America’s farm and ranch families. Of the 10% of disposable income Americans spend on food each year, 46% is for food eaten at home and 54% is for food eaten away from home.” Americans spend a lower percentage of their income than any other nation. For example, according the figures from the USDA ERS report on Food Prices and Spending, “In Kenya and other low-income countries, at-home food’s share of consumption expenditures can exceed 50 percent. Per capita calorie availability follows the reverse pattern. According to the most recent available data, U.S. per capita calorie availability was among the highest at 3,682 calories per day, while Kenya’s was estimated at only 2,206 calories.” Maybe that is why they readily accept advances in agriculture while a few of the well-fed in this country are constantly critical of and fight against improved agriculture technology.

To the American farmer and the Creator who has blessed us I say thank you.

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Phil Blevins is an agricultural extension agent in Washington County, Virginia.

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