Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! Give Thanks to Farmers

(Downtown LA Cornfield)
Thanks for
(Daily Breeze, Nov. 27, 2002)
By Judith Gerber (aka LA Farm Girl)

This week, millions of Americans will gather around the Thanksgiving table with family and friends enjoying the harvest from the most bountiful food source in the world. But, did you know that this week is also National Farm-City Week? It’s a week designed by the National Farm City Council to highlight the important roles that urban and rural partnerships play in food and fiber production.

Did you know that the state of California produces more than 50 percent of the nation’s fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts? That it does this using just 3 percent of the nation’s farmland? That California farmers and ranchers produce nearly $30 billion a year and support more than 1.1 million jobs?

That California is the top agricultural state, a position it’s held for more than 50 years?

For most people, the answer to these questions is no. That’s because there are usually no big, headlining agricultural stories in the media. There is no constant coverage on the fact that thanks to California, we have the safest, most affordable food supply system in the world.

What about the people who grow your food, fiber and flowers? It might surprise you to know that California is still dominated by family and small farms. Approximately 97 percent of California farms are run as family farms or partnerships.

If farm issues are covered on the news, most stories usually cast a negative light on farmers. However, many of our farmers practice sustainable agriculture and work toward preserving our natural resources, protecting the environment and conserving water. They are the largest stewards of our land and are working to preserve what little open space is left.

But each year, their very existence is jeopardized by the unchecked growth of development, competition and dominance by large corporate farms, over-regulation at the state and federal level, and the apparent lack of concern for their survival by the general public.

American Farmland Trust says that every minute of every day, America loses 2 acres of farmland. And from 1992 to 1997, California’s agricultural lands decreased by an average of 256,000 acres annually.

Maybe you think that because you live in the South Bay, you are so far removed from agriculture that it doesn’t affect you. Have you ever stopped to count the number of times during the day that agriculture touches your life? From the time you crawl out of the cotton sheets on your bed in the morning to the time you brush your teeth at night, agriculture is there. If you use products like paper, shampoo, crayons, buttons and shoes, then you are affected by agriculture.

You might also think that Los Angeles County doesn’t produce agricultural products anymore. In 2001, L.A. County had $15 million commodities including ornamental trees and shrubs, bedding plants, peaches, dairy products, strawberries and table grapes.

As you sit down at the table this Thanksgiving and give thanks for all of the good in your life, take the opportunity to thank our farmers. Remember that agriculture is part of our lives, so we must help to protect it.

You can make a difference by asking where your food is grown, who grew it, and when and how it was grown. Shop at your local farmers market; look for “Buy Local” campaigns at your local market, showing that the food was made in California.

Take your children to petting zoos, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farms, “u-pick” orchards and farms, and teach them where their food comes from. Initiate a farm day at your school, or invite a farmer to talk at your school or community organization.

When you go on vacation, travel through California’s heartland and experience for yourself the beauty of areas like San Joaquin’s Blossom Trail, Fallbrook (The Avocado Capital of the World) and the countless farm trails of Northern California.

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