Have you ever thought how agriculture impacts each and every one of us? While you may not grow any vegetables on your own or raise your own livestock, we each benefit from those who do in many ways. From the cattle farmer we get the beef to make our hamburgers and/or steaks for a weekend cookout. From those who grow peaches we get delicious peach ice cream in the summertime and from those who grow cotton, we get the material to make everything from clothes to bed sheets. Agriculture touches the lives of every person in one way or another. That was the main idea behind Van McCall’s presentation at the annual Farm City Breakfast held on November 17 at the Rock Ranch.
McCall, a native of Denton, spoke to the crowd on how agriculture is the workhorse of the American society. He noted that USDA statistics show that in 1920 there were 25 million horses and mules in this nation, but then three things happened to propel agriculture into being the backbone of our society. The first was the mechanical movement, when horse power was transformed into mechanical power. By 1960, only 10 percent of that 25 million horses and mules were still used because the use of tractors had taken over. The next was the 1914 Smith-Lever act that created the Extension Service, whose employees deliver the research and education from the universities to the grass roots where people can use it. The third thing that happed was in 1916; President Wilson signed the Federal Farm law, which created the farm credit system. This system brought a source of capital from Wall Street to Main Street and production in agriculture began to grow.
“With these three things, we stopped seeing farming as a way to feed horses and mules and set a new goal: to feed a nation and we have done that,” McCall said. “Whatever our walk of life is, whether we are in agriculture production or agribusiness or civil society, we need to ride the horse of agriculture and stay mounted.”
He further explained that 1.8 percent of this nation’s population is agriculture producers, meaning 98 percent of the population is strictly consumers. He added that it is important to attract young people to the business of farming because today the average age of a farmer is 56 years old, which is thought will rise to 60 years of age by the year 2050. McCall added that it is estimated only 50 percent of family farms functioning now will go on to a second generation. Then only one-third of those farms will go on to a third generation, further adding why this is something to be proactive about.
“We need to attract young people to get on board with agriculture and agribusiness because second to the military, the agriculture sector of this nation is our best line of defense,” McCall said. “Because the moment we cease to be able to feed ourselves, we are in trouble as a nation.”
Agriculture is alive in Upson County and according to Upson County Extension Agent Wes Smith, it brought in $38,311,346 in agriculture income in 2014 for our community. He noted to lose that would change society greatly. There are 348 farms in Upson County which adds up to just over 47,000 acres of land. Of those farms, 102 get their primary income from farming and 19 produce sales of over $100,000 a year. Major crops and agri-business for the area include corn, cotton, small grain, straw, soybean, commercial beef cattle, dairy, small ruminant (sheep and goats), broiler houses, hay-registered beef cattle, timber, agri-tourism, green houses, honey bees and produce.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1