By MARION BARNES
Thanksgiving Day is time when family, friends and communities traditionally come together to give thanks and celebrate autumn. Thanksgiving has been celebrated on and off since 1789 when President George Washington issued a proclamation upon a request from Congress.
In 1863 during the midst of the War between the States, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday to be held each November as a day of thanksgiving and praise.
This year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, celebrating this annual event will likely be very different for many families across our nation. Many Americans will likely have to forgo travel to visit distant relatives, large family gatherings and other events that have been so common in the past. Regardless of the circumstances this Thanksgiving, we can still be thankful for all our blessings.
One of the many blessings I am exceedingly thankful for is the farm and agricultural industry we have in this country today. America is truly fortunate to have a food production system that is literally the envy of the world. The United States has one of the lowest food production cost in the world, with Americans spending around ten percent of their annual income on food. We have some of the most productive soils in the world and a climate that allows agricultural commodities to be produced throughout the entire year: spring, summer, fall and winter somewhere in the United States. Livestock and poultry production provides meat and protein to feed a hungry nation. Rivers, railways and our interstate highway system transport livestock and agricultural commodities from the farms and fields to storage and processing facilities located around the country in a timely manner.
The agribusiness sector with its innovative technological advances in seed, fertilizer and pest management products, along with equipment manufacturers, have allowed the American farmer to be some of the most efficient producers on the world agricultural stage. Although our nation’s farmers make up just two percent of our population, each U. S. farmer produces enough food and fiber for 168 people annually in the United States and abroad.
Although Americans benefit from cheaper food prices compared to the rest of the world, they are seeing higher grocery bills this year. In the past 12 months, food prices have risen nearly four percent. According to the National Farmers Union, for every dollar Americans spend on their Thanksgiving meal this year, farmers will earn only 11.9 cents, representing a slight decline since 2019. According to the American Farm Bureau’s annual survey, the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 people is $48.91 or slightly less than $5 per person.
Those who farm for a living understand that it requires sacrifice, dedication and hard work to be a successful farmer. Today, fewer and fewer people are willing to rise before the sun comes up, toil all day long in the heat or cold or rainy weather, sometimes seven days a week, and face the challenges it takes to grow crops and raise livestock in hopes of making a profit.
I, for one, am thankful there are some Americans still willing to do so. One only has to recall the photos and media reports of empty grocery store shelves during the height of the pandemic this spring to understand the important and vital role farmers play in society. Just imagine what your day would be like if you had to milk the cow, grow the grain, feed the pigs and poultry, and tend the vegetables before going off to your “day job” in order to have breakfast, lunch or supper.
It’s been stated that farmers are eternal optimists, always positive and never giving up hope. It takes a special type of person to face the challenges of adverse weather, insect and disease outbreaks, volatile commodity prices, ever-changing governmental regulations and laws, and still “report for work” every morning and keep a positive attitude though it all.
When you sit down this Thursday for your Thanksgiving meal, take a few minutes to remember all the hard-working folks who make your meal possible.
The next time you see a farmer, thank them for their hard work and support and all they do you our country.
(Marion Barnes is a senior county agent with the Colleton County Clemson Extension.)