As our society becomes more urban, fewer Americans ever see the connection between the food they eat, the clothing they wear and the farms where the food and fiber products are grown. Most of us will never see the cow that produces the milk for our breakfast, the cotton field from which the cotton in our blue jeans comes, or the fields and orchards where our fresh produce is grown. Yet every day, whether we realize it or not, we benefit from the bounty produced by the American farmer. Their rich harvest provides food for this nation and for other countries around the world.
Thanks to this abundance, Americans spend around 6 to 7 cents out of every dollar they earn or 10 percent of their household income on food, compared with 24 percent spent in 1930. In a lifetime the average American will consume 1,239 chickens, enough vegetables to fill 16 pickup trucks, twenty 240 pound hogs, enough milk to fill 34 bathtubs, seven steers weighing over 7,000 pounds and two football fields of wheat. In 2007 an individual farmer fed 155 people, compared to feeding just over 18 people in 1940 and 26 in 1960.
North Carolina’s agricultural industry, including food, fiber and forestry, contributes $70 billion annually to the State’s economy, and accounts for 18% of the State’s income, and employs over 17% of the work force. To put agriculture’s economic importance in perspective, the N.C. Department of Commerce reports the state’s second-leading industry the military contributes about $23 billion to the economy. As one of the most diversified agriculture states in the nation, North Carolina’s 52,400 farmers grow over 80 different commodities, utilizing 8.6 million of the state’s 31 million acres to furnish consumers a dependable and affordable supply of food and fiber.
Each year farming in Lee County generates roughly $50 million with agriculture and agribusiness industries providing a total income well over of $235 million. These successes are due in part to people working together from the farm to the city. Many jobs are created in harvesting, storage, processing, transporting, and selling the food and fiber products of the state.
In recognition of the importance of agriculture, the Lee County Board of Commissioners, Broadway Town Council and Sanford City Council will proclaim Nov. 22-28, 2013 as Farm City Week during their monthly meetings in November. The Lee County observance is co-sponsored by N.C. Cooperative Extension and Kiwanis Club of Sanford. Farm City Week is a time to recognize that the growth and development of our County and the well being of all our citizens depends upon the cooperation and exchange between our rural and urban residents.
Our Farm City Week annual banquet will be held on Monday, Nov. 25, at the McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center. And will again feature the traditional country ham, scrambled eggs, local stone ground grits with red eye gravy and biscuits prepared by the Lemon Springs Ruritan Club. The banquet begins with a social at 5:30 p.m. provided by our ECA members. During the evening, the Farm Conservation Family, the Farm Enterprise and Friend of Agriculture awards will be presented. The bluegrass band Jus Right will entertain those present. Tickets are available for $7 at the McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center.
Other Farm City Week activities include a 4-H Youth Art and Photo Contest entitled Agriculture Exposed in Lee County. Youth and adults are invited to submit photos of any farm or agricultural related setting in Lee County. The annual Ladies Luncheon will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the McSwain Extension Center with Secretary Elaine Marshall as the speaker. Get your tickets early, this event always sells out.
In celebration of our agricultural heritage, FFA has declared 2013 as the Year of the Farmer and has posted Paul Harvey’s “So God Made a Farmer” on youtube. Our farms provide an abundant supply of safe, wholesome and affordable high quality food, which is unmatched around the world. For more information about Farm City Week or the activities planned, call our Center at 775-5624.
Susan C. Condlin is County Extension Director for N.C. Cooperative Extension in Lee County.