Generations Nourishing Generations: National Ag Day set for March 19
Across the country, groups will be uniting during National Agriculture Day on March 19. This year’s celebration marks the 40th anniversary of National Ag Day, an event celebrated is classrooms and communities across the country, according to the Agriculture Council of America (ACA).
“National Ag Day is a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture,” says ACA. “Every year, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture.”
National Ag Day falls during National Ag Week, which runs from March 17-23.
The theme to this year’s ag day is “Generations Nourishing Generations,” a concept that many in Wyoming embrace.
“Agriculture in Wyoming has thrived generation after generation,” says Governor Matt Mead. “In the early days of our state, settlers and industry founders laid a rock-solid foundation. By the close of the 20th century, such intrepid folks had succeeded in making agriculture Wyoming’s third largest industry. Not only that, you have set the stage well for the current generation, sometimes referred to as the millennial generation, and for future generations too.”
Mead recognizes that Wyoming’s rich history is showcased in its more than 11,000 ranches and more than 300 centennial farms and ranches.
“There are 11,000 farms and ranches in Wyoming, with Wyoming ranking first in the nation in average acreage,” he continues. “Wyoming ag contributes about a billion dollars annually to the economy and so much more besides revenue.”
Additionally, Mead notes that while we see tangible benefits in the form of food, wildlife habitat and unmatched sceneries, agriculture also provides intangible benefits, including fulfillment from stewardship of the land and enjoyment from enjoying our beautiful vantage points.
As times have changed, so has agriculture, according to Todd Ballard, director of the Wyoming Office of the National Agriculture Statistics Service.
“Not quite 100 years ago, 10,987 farms in Wyoming covering 8.5 million acres were reported on the 1910 Census of Agriculture. Of these, 6,095 of these were irrigated farms,” he says.
The same census showed 5.4 million head of sheep and 767,427 cattle. Hay was worth $6.1 million and 737 farms reported apple production.
Moving forward to data collected in the 2007 Census of Agriculture, Ballard marked 11,069 farms, averaging 2,726 acres.
“Cattle inventory increased substantially from 100 years ago to 1.3 million while our sheep population decreased to 412,804,” says Ballard. “It is fun to look back on history to see the changes and just to see the type of things that were important then compared to what is important now. What will the results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture tell us?”
“Agriculture is constantly changing, but one thing remains the same,” he adds. “Agriculture counts.”
The next generations
As the theme “Generations Nourishing Generations” hits close to home for many, Mead additionally says, “Future generations of farmers and ranchers are benefitting from all that has gone before.”
Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director Jason Fearneyhough notes that the average age of farmers and ranchers in the U.S. continue to increase, but recognizes that the future is agriculture is not in jeopardy.
“In fact, the outlook for agriculture is bright due to the quality young people who are excited about the industry and are ready and willing to take the reins and reach the full potential in the years to come,” Fearneyhough comments. “As I have the opportunity to work with young people in various settings, I’m seeing excitement from not only ag backgrounds, but outside agriculture as well.”
With young people’s interest in policy making, education, science, advocacy and other arenas, he continues that they are well poised to continue the long history of agriculture.
“When you look around the state of Wyoming and the country, you see farms and ranches that have been in business for generations and will continue operating as they eventually get passed down to the younger generation,” Fearneyhough mentions.
“A legacy of conservation will endure,” Mead says. “Our young people are being well-prepared for the inevitable hand-off from one generation to the next.”
In celebrating National Ag Day, groups across the nation are celebrating the impact that agriculture has on their lives and educating others about the importance of the industry.
“Ag Day serves as a reminder to consumers where their food comes from and that agriculture is important,” comments Cindy Garretson-Weibel, Wyoming Business Council Agri-Business Division Director. “Agriculture is extremely important to the economy of Wyoming, and I think people tend to overlook the importance of the industry.”
At the same time, Garretson-Weibel encourages producers to work to educate new people about the importance of the industry.
“As we celebrate agriculture on March 19, 2013, take a moment to think about agriculture and the importance this industry plays in your everyday life,” Fearneyhough emphasizes. “From the food you eat to the clothes you wear to the products you use on a day-to-day basis, agriculture plays a significant role. It is undeniable that agriculture makes life today possible, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to learn more about this industry.”
For more information on National Ag Day, visit agday.org.