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 (November 19-26) is also National Farm-City Week? 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% of the nation’s fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts? And, it does this using just 3% of the nation’s farmland. California farmers and ranchers produce nearly $30 billion a year, support over 1.1 million jobs, and is the top agricultural state, a position it’s held for more than 55 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 run farms. Approximately 97% 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 towards 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 two acres of farmland.
Maybe you think that because you live in Los Angeles 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 in Los Angeles County we don’t even produce agricultural products anymore. In 2006 (latest report available), L.A. County had 16 million dollar commodities including ornamental trees and shrubs, bedding plants, root vegetables, herbs, apples, strawberries, and 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: 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.