For years I shared the opinions of many others that being in Agriculture meant being a farmer and being a farmer meant long hard days of being covered in sweat and dirt. I understood that yes, there were other branches that were tied to Ag, but at the end of the day, I viewed most of the industry as simply farmers who planted crops or raised feed animals. It did not take long into my internship to quickly realize how far from the truth this opinion really is. Throughout my experience, I met and had discussions with scientist, marketers, salesmen, lawyers, specialists, advisors, horticulturists, landscapers, political officials, insurance agents, and mechanics who all play a critical role within the ag industry. A lot of these individuals wore lab coats or suits and ties, far from the dirt and oil stained pants and flannel shirt you often see in Ag advertisements and commercials. These individuals had careers in communication, biotechnology, political science, business administration, and engineering. They managed nurseries to supply our desire to have the nicest yard in the neighborhood. They met with farmers to assess damages that occurred with our recent hurricanes. They met with members of Congress to lobby for the right of farmers to utilize the water on their own land. They spent countless hours in the lab developing new seeds to increase crop yield and protect against disease. They worked overtime getting a combine back in production so the farmer could resume collecting his harvest. They held local events and produced commercials and cooking shows to expand the demand for crops such as sweet potatoes. They traveled the County educating our community and our farmers on local agricultural issues. They did everything but farming. In fact, the only thing these individuals actually shared with my image of a farmer was a passion for agriculture.
This exposure to the many career avenues in agriculture has made me embarrassed of my “agricultural privilege”. It is easy for us to relay the stereotypes of the farmer and to take for granted the contributions of everyone involved in the process of making food readily available in our local grocery stores or restaurants. Thanks to this experience, I have come to the conclusion the Ag industry is very much a large machine with multiple working parts. The farmers may be supplying the fuel for this machine, but if even one gear gets a little loose or stuck the amount of “fuel” no longer matters, as the whole production is impacted.
I would like to end this post thanking all of those non-farmers that have dedicated your life to agriculture and supporting this country.