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By Holly Martin

Today there's a celebration for everything: Teacher's Day, Grandparent's Day, Mother's Day, National Talk Like a Pirate Day.

But none is really so important as March 19. That's the day we celebrate as National Ag Day. In essence, it's a day to celebrate you--the American farmer and rancher.

I hear you scoffing. I hear you saying, "We don't need another made-up holiday." That may be true, but as I've said many times before, we need the consumer to be more aware of the agriculture industry. If having a day to celebrate it helps, then so be it.

Part of the Ag Day celebration is the announcement of the essay and video contest winners. This year's winners do an excellent job of sharing the message that consumers need to hear.

Congratulations to them. And Happy Ag Day to you.

Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 1-800-452-7171 ext. 1806, or by email at hmartin@hpj.com.

2013 Essay Contest Winner

"American Agriculture: Nourishing Opportunities"

By Whitney Bowman, Mount Jackson, Va.

The wind often rustles the leaves of a huge maple tree standing sentry by my house. Over the years its roots sank deep, its branches stretched outward, and its trunk grew firm. Now reaching above my roof, it shields against heat in the summer and wind in the winter. Likewise, American agriculture must grow to continue to provide America and the world a safe, economical, and abundant food supply. It must sink its roots into Mother Nature's solid foundation, reach outward toward new technologies, and remain true to the solid support of hard work, responsibility, and perseverance that have made it the most productive in the world.

American agriculture nurtures the environment. As the population increases and houses cover arable land, the importance of environmental stewardship will skyrocket in the future. Unseen opportunities will arise as American farmers increase production with fewer resources and pollution. In the mid-1800s, this meant simply planting trees on new prairie homesteads. Today, farmers plant fields without tilling and plant buffers to naturally filter pollution from water. As fossil fuels are depleted, agriculture could hold the key to America's energy sustainability, producing resources such as ethanol, methane, and even wind energy on agricultural lands. Farmers hold a deep, unique connection with the earth, nurturing it to produce food for themselves and the world.

American agriculture nurtures technology. With the world population expected to reach nine billion by the year 2050, America will need to revolutionize agricultural production. Biotechnology enables farmers to produce crops that are drought-tolerant, fortified with vitamins, and resistant to pests. Farmers are utilizing technology to pinpoint areas in fields needing fertilizer or irrigation, replacing manpower with robotics, and utilizing airplanes to spray and plant fields. Advances in processing help reduce disease outbreaks, improve worker safety, and make food products economical. As American agriculture nurtures technology, it is becoming more efficient.

American agriculture nurtures relationships. With farmers comprising less than 2 percent of Americans, connecting with consumers is both a huge challenge and exhilarating opportunity. Uninformed consumers block agriculture's progress, but educated consumers are agriculture's most valuable cheerleader. The resurgence of locally grown foods and farmers' markets has opened dialogue between producers and consumers and nurtured relationships. Agriculturalists must continue the conversation by contacting their representatives, inviting the public to their farms, and telling their story with social media and other forms of mass communication.

Through the centuries, American agriculture has grown and overcome the challenges in its way. Even more opportunities for growth lie ahead. As American agriculture addresses issues such as environmental stewardship, the growing population, and a lack of consumer understanding, its roots will sink deep, its branches grow upward, and its trunk remain firm.

2013 Video Essay Winner

Lebo Molefe, Naperville, Ill.

You can view the video at http://www.agday.org/media/pr11.php.

Date: 3/25/2013



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