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Letter to the Editor: National Agriculture Day


Posted March 21, 2018


Dear Editor:


               When I think of National Agriculture Day and farming, I can’t help but reminisce about my days as a child, helping my father on the farm and doing my best not to slow the operation down. I can distinctly remember my father teaching me to shift gears and work the clutch the first time I drove a tractor. Those memories run deep, and now that I have two small children of my own, I want them not only to realize the enjoyment and responsibility that farming has brought to my family, but also understand the greater effect our business of agriculture has on the rest of the population.


                As a young child, the majesty of farming lies in the thought of playing in the dirt for a living. But as a person grows older, a deeper, more fond respect begins to form for the men and women who choose agriculture as a career. You soon learn that no role in agriculture is too small to go unrecognized. Everyone from the vegetable farmer with a couple acres to the larger farms with thousands of acres each leave their individual imprint on the world of agriculture.


         As my children grow, I want to teach them how it all ties together. From the seeds we plant, to raising a healthy crop, to the livestock and people that today’s ag products feed, producers and consumers are connected in a complex web. Many of you probably see the semis with funnel-shaped bottoms headed up and down Route 51 every day. These trucks are loaded with corn and soybeans, grown by local farmers, to be sent to processors like ADM and Tate and Lyle in Decatur. Eventually, they will be made into thousands of agricultural by-products, including food grade sweeteners, ethanol, biofuels and animal feed.


                I think it is exciting that we can make what we grow here into a variety of things that are used around the globe. But despite the impressive reach of our farm products, the number of farms in the United States has been cut in half since 1950. This means that as the population grows, fewer farmers are challenged to grow more food on less ground than previous generations. It also means that we as farmers are responsible for making choices that are best for the land, and best for our ability to grow food that feeds your family and mine.


            While these changes may continue to present a challenge for me, it will also be a challenge for my children, should they wish to farm. As generations become further away from farming, my kids will also have another responsibility: showing non-farm consumers how crops are grown and how many lives are touched by agriculture here in Central Illinois. As a relatively young farmer myself, I know I must take this challenge on as well, ultimately by giving my children – and anyone else who passes by – a front-row seat to the ins and outs of raising today’s crops and livestock. 

So, as National Agriculture Week, March 18-24, is recognized, I’d invite you to reach out to a farmer you know, or even one you don’t. Take a visit to a local farm. You may be surprised at the willingness of farm families to give you a quick ride in a tractor or show you around!

Neil Whitted

Clinton, IL 61727


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