Happy National Ag Day! I am excited this year’s theme is “Agriculture: Sustaining Future Generations” because I get to work with our future generation almost every day. I am excited for their future and hope many of them choose a path in agriculture. I know my kindergarten, first, and second grade students are a long way from deciding what to do with their future, but it is my job to help lead them there. It just so happens I am a little biased about the opportunities ag has to offer them and will promote them as much as I can while they are in my classroom.
Below is a piece my sister, Katie and I wrote together. To sum it up, we ask that you join with us today in celebrating the past, present, and most importantly future of agriculture.
Ag Day 2015: Celebrate Agriculture & Our Next Generation of Farmers
As we praise the warm weather and new beginnings that spring brings, we want to remind you that our farmers are starting to gather in the fields to produce this year’s crop and the food that comes to your table each and every day.
This year’s National Agriculture Day is March 18th and the theme is “Agriculture: Sustaining Future Generations”. This is a day to celebrate and support agriculture and the people that work in the agriculture industry even though we hope many of you celebrate more than one day of the year. These “people” are the farmers and ranchers that grow crops, raise, and care for livestock and tend to the land.
When we think of farmers, many times we think of overalls and a pitchfork. But in today’s agriculture world, more and more farmers are communicating via their smart phone from their tractors and using technologies that make our farms more efficient. The old pitchforks have turned into iPads. Even with the adoption of new technologies, we still face issues within agriculture. Many people outside the agriculture family don’t realize the issues we are facing today with aging farmers. Today, the average American farmer or rancher is 55 years old or older. Young people are not returning to the farm to work and take over the age-old tradition of farming. Instead they are looking elsewhere for more “attractive” jobs that have a typical 9-5 hour schedule, vacation days and less physically demanding work.
This is everyone’s problem because we need the next generation of farmers and ranchers to raise our crops and livestock to sustain our lifestyles as consumers. With the world population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, who will grow and raise our food? We need a next generation of farmers, ranchers and agriculturists to take on that task. Whether they come back to the farm or ranch to work, work for companies that create the technologies used on the farms, or help develop policies farmers and ranchers need to sustain their family farms, we need someone to take on the task. Also, we need people to teach the next generation about agriculture and where their food comes from. Without a doubt, there are many jobs that need to be filled in the agriculture industry.
Living in Indiana we are lucky to have various options for the next generation to be a part of this agriculture family. We have a strong agriculture sector ranging from a leading land grant university that provides educational and extension services to every citizen and a growing technology and innovation sector that includes companies like Dow AgroSciences and Elanco. We also have seed companies that provide more innovative agronomic tools for our farms and a livestock sector that provides food to people around the world. Our Indiana agriculture sector generates more than $25.4 billion towards Indiana’s gross domestic product and employees more than 475,000 Hoosiers, which attributes to roughly 20% of our workforce.
So how you can you help find the next generation of farmers, ranchers and members of the agriculture family? Encourage a young person to learn more about jobs in agriculture. Attend a forum or meeting that discusses ag issues and policies that affect our farming and our food. Visit local events, county and state fairs and farms to show your support of famers and ranchers. Educate yourself on local, state, national and world food and ag issues. Support your local FFA chapters, 4-H clubs, or young farmer groups. Let them know that they are needed and that you really need them too.
Agriculture is a part of our heritage and we hope it continues to be a strong part of our future in Indiana and in our country. As farm girls who wore overalls, loved showing animals and eating sweet corn from our own farm, we hope you take a moment to celebrate National Ag Day today and every day with us. Do your part in sustaining agriculture’s future generations which include you too.