What I Wish I had Learned About Agriculture in School - Food Dialogues

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What I Wish I had Learned About Agriculture in School

I also rode the school bus past a dairy farm as a kid. We called it the “stinky old dairy farm”. It wasn’t until I met my husband shortly after he started his dairy farm in my hometown that I realized how much I did not know, even more so, how much misinformation I had heard. I wish that our rural school district would have taken more time to teach us about the importance of agriculture, different agriculture practices and inspire us to know where our food comes from. I can only imagine if we did not learn about these things completely surrounded by it, what are the kids in the inner cities being taught? These are things I ponder while doing chores on that “stinky old dairy farm” that has now become my home.

A Majority of farms are family farms.

In the United States, 97% of all U.S. farms are family owned. One might believe that the size of the farm dictates if a farm is family owned. Today’s average dairy farm size is 144 cows, with over half of U.S. dairy farms milking over 900 cows. My friend’s Doug & Lori milk over 700 cows on their third generation dairy farm. A majority of the work done on their farm is done by multiple family members. Their farm is larger than our 140 cow dairy, but their priorities are still the same-Taking great care of their cows while trying to support their family.

We have one of the safest food supplies in the world.
The most recent research from The Conference Board of Canada digs deep into which countries have the safest food supply. They released their findings based on:

I would have to say I believe they covered their bases. So, who has the safest food supply in the world? Canada and Ireland, France, United Kingdom and Norway and then the United States. All of which are very close in scores. There was only a .3 difference between Canada and the United States, the overall assessment is very interesting.

Less than 2% of the U.S. population feeds the other 98%.
It’s truly amazing to think less than 2% of the American population are farmers. Even more so, the fact that they feed everyone. How fortunate are we to live in a country where folks can pursue a career that doesn’t require cleaning a barn or milking cows every single day and that there are folks that are so willing to take on that task and devote their lives to feeding others.

Just like people, no two farms are the same.
Growing up, I was taught in school to be accepting of each other’s differences. Everyone has something to offer this world. It’s true. We need a variety of personalities, people with different interests and skills. This is the same for farmers and farms.

There are so many factors that play into why each farmer farms the way he or she does. The climate, elevation, region, cooperative availability, soil, weather, land, regulations, etc. All of these things play a crucial role in why each farm is different. Each farm has it’s own unique way of feeding this growing population. That should be something to celebrate, not condemn.

Farming is not a hobby.
There seems to be a new trend of fixing up old farm houses, filling your backyard with chickens and splitting up 100s of acres of prime farm land; only to build new homes every 10-20 acres so folks can enjoy the “farm life.” Many folks these days are several generations removed from farming. I believe this is where much of the confusion about modern agriculture comes into play, and part of the reason farming has become so over romanticized. It’s so much more than having some chickens and a garden. It is getting up before the sun rises and finishing after it sets. It’s going out every day regardless of low milk prices and high feed costs. I wish someone would have told me about the blood, sweat and tears that goes into getting my food farm to table. I wish someone would have taken the time to explain to me how these amazing people, a minority, feed the majority.

There are so many views and opinions being shared about agriculture today. I do believe if there were more of an effort to connect with school children, we wouldn’t have such a negative perception of what happens on farms throughout the U.S.

To read more from Krista, visit thefarmerswifee.com.

Krista Stauffer is a new addition to U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s Digital Voices Council. This post is part of my ongoing sponsored partnership with U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. All opinions expressed are my own. Funded by one or more checkoff programs.