Friday, March 21, 2014

Pausing to Plant a Word of Thanks

By Brenda Black

Immersed in a sea of people, I pin-balled my way through a crowded corridor headed to a luncheon. My reason for being one among the masses – to attend the 2014 US Agriculture Outlook Forum. In a hotel in Arlington, VA, situated in the heart of US history, I rubbed elbows with the world. As I dined on tasty American cuisine, my eyes were opened to just how blessed we are to live in this country and enjoy affordable food. Not because of the plate in front of me presented with flare and a high price tag. My persuasion came from table conversation.

Over chicken parmesan, crisp zucchini and linguini, I chatted with an exporter from Sri Lanka and the senior vice president of one of America's largest chicken processing companies. They were pleased with the entree, of course. By way of introductions, they soon learned they were surrounded by cattlewomen and the conversation took an amiable turn toward protein competition and consumption around the globe.

We talked cuts and taste, price and production. We bantered over flavor and variety of options. But I fell silent when the exporter began to explain the true limitation of protein in his home country. When a friend at the table asked about by-products, he looked perplexed. We thought for a moment there was a language barrier that needed bridging. She took another run at it and asked “What do you do with what's left of the chicken?”

“All that's not eaten is the feathers,” he answered soberly. One family may dine on a half-pound chicken for a week. Everything but the feathers is cut into tiny pieces and thrown into a pot of soup. If a child enjoys two bites of protein, it is a luxury.

The VP chimed in to validate the minimal consumption. His company shrink wraps product for the Sri Lankan market that defy our “super size” mentality. Packages ship to sell that have a single chicken wing. That's all some families can afford.

My lunch took on a heavenly form and I felt thankful and blessed beyond words.

We take so much for granted. Our grocery stores are brimming with ample and affordable provision. Fast food drive throughs, convenience stores, family cafes and high end fancy restaurants beckon us from small towns to big cities. From farmer's markets to popcorn at the movies, we have choices. Food is available and variety attainable. Yes, we are blessed to be able to feed our families more than one bite of meat a week...thanks to the American farmer.

Once upon a time in this country, raising food was all about survival for the immediate family. These days it is about health and nutrition, variety and abundant provision. The faithful farmers come in all sizes and grow everything from snow peas to pigs, broccoli to beef. Farmers are a passionate stock and dedicated to the bigger picture.

Farming is rooted in history and tradition, but has grown to encompass tremendous diversity in order to meet consumer preference and price points. In a move from feeding only one's family to feeding the world, farmers have become more efficient, more conscientious, more conservative, more capable than ever.

Photo courtesy of
As spring arrives this week and the grass begins to green, notice the wheat fields changing hue. Appreciate the deep furrows of fertile soil turned beneath a plow. Savor the smell of a steak on the grill. And remember what a great blessing is agriculture in America.

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