March 8th is National Agriculture Day, a day “dedicated to increasing the public awareness of agriculture’s vital role in our society.”
The industry group Agriculture Council of America, which came up with this awareness day, wants all of us to
- “Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
- “Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
- “Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
- “Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.”
Living, as we do, smack in the middle of Iowa, which is smack in the middle of some of the most productive farmland in the world, I think we’re all keenly aware of agriculture and its role in, well, everything we do. The state is the biggest producer of corn, soybeans, pigs and eggs in the country. While only 6.3 percent of Iowans are farm operators, one in six of us [17%] are involved in the agriculture industry.
But it’s also worth looking past the CAFOs and big ag corporations that power much of the state’s economy, and take a look at the many smaller-scale farming businesses that you can reach in an easy drive from the state capital:
Farmers are setting up CSA’s, selling family-sized shares in their farm’s harvest. Turtle Farm, Tabletop Farm, The Homestead and One Step at a Time are a handful of the nearby farms with Des Moines-area CSA deliveries.
Other farmers, like Garlic Guy Larry Cleverley and AllSpice’s own Jennie Smith [the “Tomato Lady,” who’s on a farming fellowship to New Zealand in 2012] sell their wares at the Downtown Farmers’ Market and to local grocery stores [like Tallgrass in WDM and Gateway Market in Sherman Hill] and fine restaurants. Organizations like Buy Fresh, Buy Local and Edible Iowa River Valley get the word out about what good local food is out there, and where to find it.
Photo credit: Haymaking on Flickr
[March 8 is also International Women’s Day, so we thought we’d give a hat-tip to that as well, with this photo of women farmers, making hay [no doubt while the sun shines] in Sweden in 1910.]