Olympic Withdrawal

The other night as I sat down to enjoy some TV, I realized that I really miss not being able to see the Olympic Winter Games any longer. I have to say, I sort of enjoyed the two weeks of winter sports coming from over in Russia, and I even had figured out what in the world some of them were doing. I still wonder about the sport of curling, where you heave a teakettle looking object down the ice and sweep the path clear for it to make it down the track. You have to wonder who came up with the idea the first time to do such a thing. Did someone’s kettle get slung out in the snow and they thought it would be fun to see how far it would go before it stopped or what? Strange game, but I’m still trying to figure out golf, so I guess it takes something for all of us.  
I must admit, I’m not fully trustworthy of this year’s host and feel they may have messed with Shaun White’s snow and his halfpipe snowboarding. That young man gave it all he had and if they hadn’t been fooling around with global warming tricks he may have won. His Double McTwist 1260 and the two-flip, three-and-a-half spin gyroscopic marvel move reminded me a lot of myself. Why? Because I did the same move the other morning while coming off my back porch after our somewhat of a snow and ice storm. The only difference was I performed those moves without a board and with no plans to do it in the first place. Thanks to a good bit of snow, my landing was one without injury. There was no gold medal at the end either. Purple and blue were the only colors I received for my run.  
But now, I have to find a cure for Olympic Winter Games withdrawal and I think I have the answer if you are in the same shape I’m in. It is called spring and it is just around the corner. I saw the first sign the other day that it is on its way. A trailer truck loaded with lawnmowers passed me on my way headed into town, which means warmer weather is ahead. Plus, the first day of spring is March 20, which is also an important date for Tennessee agriculture and you. National Ag Day is celebrated that day and the celebration of our agrarian culture and industry has appropriately occurred on the first day of spring for years and is often overlooked by many of us.  
All across America and here in Tennessee, farmers will be recognized for their true professionalism and contribution to all of our daily lives, just like the athletes at the Olympics. Or will they?  
Do you ever think about how farmers are necessary for your daily food, clothing and shelter or do you just take it for granted? Like most of us, when you reach into your refrigerator for food, or open your closet for a fresh shirt, you are confident that they will be there. But, will that always be the case? Did you know that this country only has a two to three week supply of food? Something to think about and it is only there because some farmer gets up every morning and goes to the field or barn to feed us.        
No other industry affects each and every American with more impact every day than agriculture. From the foods we eat and the clothes we wear, to the papers we write on and the fuels we burn, almost everything we use starts with agriculture.  
Twenty-two million American workers produce, process, sell and trade the nation’s food and fiber. But only 4.6 million of those people live on farms – slightly less than 2 percent of the total U.S. population. Today, individuals, family partnerships or family corporations own 96 percent of America’s farms with fewer than 10 stockholders. There is no such thing as an industrial farm in my opinion, only large farms operated by families.  
There are 76,000 farms in Tennessee, with an estimated 10,800,000 acres being used for farming. That compares to 10,900,000 million acres in 2008. Farm acres decreased at the rate of 20,000 acres a year over the last five years, but Tennessee’s farmers are still feeding our nation and the world every day.  
Whether you’re talking about cosmetics, football or pizza, it starts on the farm. And whether you produce the food and fiber, or just consume them, you can take pride in American agriculture. On March 20, remember Tennessee and America’s farmers and what they do for us each and every day. They are always in training to produce “gold medal” quality products each day, and you don’t have to wait four years to enjoy them like you do waiting on the next Olympic Winter Games.              
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com