It’s National Ag Day and all over the interwebs, bloggers are heralding what this day means to them. Some people are proclaiming their thanks for hard-working farmers and ranchers who produce a variety of nutritious and affordable foodstuffs for our nation. Others are thankful for our forefathers and their ability to see our nation’s potential for a premier agriculture industry. I echo the aforementioned thoughts and am deeply appreciative of the farmers and ranchers who produce my meat, milk, fruits and grains. But today, I’m keenly aware of the unsung heroes of American agriculture.
I’m talking about people and organizations which receive little to no credit when it comes to raising and producing food for a hungry world. Imagery of farmers and ranchers is often seen on billboards promoting food and ag products, and rightly so, considering the amount of time, passion, sweat and tears that go into raising food. However, there is a passel of people who are behind-the-scenes and at the end of the credits when it comes to raising food and today that’s who I’d like to celebrate.
Take for example ag lending institutes – farmers and ranchers require massive amounts of capital to stay in business. Equipment, land, pot-loads of cattle, seed, fertilizer, truckloads of hay — these are all necessary components of raising food that many farmers and ranchers wouldn’t be able to gain access to without ag lending institutes like Farm Service Agency or Frontier Farm Credit. In fact, the Ninja and I financed our ranch (have I mentioned that I love our ranch?!) through a special loan from Farm Service Agency.
Another conglomerate of folks who keep the line moving in agriculture but very rarely, if ever, see any appreciation are truck drivers. Big rigs. Semis. Most people tend to think of them as annoying because they seem to appear in packs on major interstates and if you get stuck behind one, watch out for road rage! However, when was the last holiday road trip you took that you remember there being zero semis on the road? I bet you can’t think of a single one. That’s because just like farmers and ranchers, truck drivers keep the infrastructure of agriculture intact 24/7/365. They work late nights, weekends and holidays and spend massive amounts of time away from their own families so that we have the food, commodities and instant-gratification-lifestyle that we have become accustomed to in the U.S. Make no mistake, without truck drivers, our food chain would be broken.
Out here in the heartland, we raise beef and grow lots of corn and wheat. Those food products need to get to the big cities somehow and teleportation isn’t an option yet. Truck drivers make strawberries from California available to a Kansas cowgirl in December. They make a prime filet that was raised in Kansas available to a consumer in St. Louis. So even when I am frustratingly stuck behind a semi while I’m late to a rodeo, I never cuss ’em because I know that they work around the clock to keep the American food supply fully stocked.
A group of people who are critical to the success of agriculture and are literally on the front lines of food production are chefs and food service operators. Think about it – a Kansas beef producer can raise the most perfect steak known to man but if a chef burns it to crisp at Longhorn Steakhouse, you all are not going to like it. Same goes for a strawberry tart. The grower can put months of time and passion into raising the wheat for the crust and fruit for the filling but if a chef gets the recipe wrong or accidentally grabs the salt instead of sugar, you are not going back to that bakery for a strawberry tart! Chefs and food service employees must know the ins-and-outs of the product they are selling and preparing in order to answer questions that we, as consumers, might have during our dining experience. A burnt steak pleases no one: not the rancher, not the chef and definitely not the customer!
Are these professionals the only unsung heroes? Not by a long shot. They are just a sampling of the ever important workforce that comprises American agriculture. Millions of people working in tandem to grow, raise, transport and prepare wholesome, safe food for a hungry nation and world.
What profession or lifestyle would you add to this list of unsung heroes?
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~
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