The majority of today’s population in this country is as much as three generations removed from the farm and the knowledge about what goes on in the agricultural realm of farm life is becoming even more distant for most every day. The abundance we all enjoy when we walk into our local grocery store has made us complacent to the appreciation of what it takes to get the food from the farm to market shelf. Let’s face it, the only time we really get concerned about where our food comes from is if it is not there when we run in for that last minute item that we should have picked up yesterday. Or if some television doctor tells us something is not good for us. The rest of the time we expect our food to be there and it had better not have increased in price.
For years this country’s population has enjoyed a cheap food policy compared to other countries around this planet. We spend only 10 percent of our disposable income on food each year and possibly complain more about how much it costs than anywhere in the world. If you live in Pakistan you spend half of what you make for food. In Jordan it is 43 percent of your disposable income and in the Philippines it is 38 percent. Even the country of China, who is making most of the things we buy in this country lately, is paying more than 32 percent. Of that 10 percent we spend, 58 percent is for food eaten at home and 42 percent is for food eaten away from home, which continues to increase each year. The American farmer continues to produce the safest and most affordable product in the world and it is done mostly on family farms. Today individuals, family partnerships or family corporations own 98 percent of all U.S. farms. And the amazing thing is that one farmer feeds annu ally 155 other people. That is a whole lot of people depending on a Tennessee farmer to get up each morning to do his job, and they do it regardless of weather, the market, fuel prices, equipment costs, EPA, Washington politics and other things that have made the rest of us seek other employment. Less than 2 percent of this country’s population is actively engaged in growing our food and each day there is a new possible threat to their livelihood.
Even the unknowing population becomes a threat. Many times, those who think they are doing right seem to interfere with the normal progression of farming activities. For example, on the dairy farm of Middle Tennessee State University a mama cow had a calf and placed the youngster near a fence close to a busy highway that led to town. Thinking she had hid her calf safely as mother cows do, she grazed nearby as the calf slept. A lady and her children heading into town saw the calf near the fence and was concerned that it may have been abandoned, but they continued on their trip to town.
On their return trip home they noticed the calf still beside the fence, and not being from a farm background, assumed the calf to be abandoned. The lady climbed the pasture fence, lifted the calf over the fence, placed it in her car and took it home. Of course the calf wouldn’t eat, causing the lady concern and she took it to a local vet, who also happened to be the vet for the MTSU dairy. After finding out what the lady had done, he called the dairy farm, which sent someone to get the calf and return it to the mother. The problem now was that the cow would not let the calf nurse and so the farm was now having to bottle feed the calf. I’m sure the lady had good intentions, but those intentions could have been detrimental to the animals involved, as well as the lady if the mother cow had seen her get her calf in the first place. As more people have become less farm savvy, farmers are being placed in the middle of “good intentions” when it comes to animal care.
Often we see stunts attempted on TV and a disclaimer is given which usually advises for you not to try the act yourself at home and should only be done by a professional. That is true with agriculture as well. It is not as simple as it looks and it is a good idea to leave the farming, the animal care and the production to the farmer.
– Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com