Thank a Farmer

— Written By

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I guess I like it best because it is about food, family and farmers and like the holiday’s namesake implies, being thankful.

It is no accident that we celebrate Thanksgiving in the fall, once the harvest has been gathered. While I was enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday this past weekend, I had time to reflect on just how blessed we are as a nation.

This year's blue ribbon entry to the Caldwell County Agricultural Fair (by Dare Ensley) is a visual display of our county's bounty. Agriculture and agribusiness is the largest economic sector in the state accounting for $77 billion of annual production.

This year’s blue ribbon entry to the Caldwell County Agricultural Fair (by Dare Ensley) is a visual display of our county’s bounty. Agriculture and agribusiness is the largest economic sector in the state accounting for $77 billion of annual production.

Although the United States makes up only 5% of the world’s population, our agricultural production is amazing. The United States is the largest producer of corn. We grow 32% of the world’s supply and it accounts for ¼ of the 330 million acres of cropland in this nation. Soybeans are the next most planted crop in the US. We produce 50% of all the soybeans on the world market.

United States wheat production is over 2 billion bushels and accounts for 10% of the world’s total supply. To understand how much wheat this is, it would take 3 million tractor trailers to haul the entire crop. There are only 1.6 million truck drivers in the entire country.

In an agriculturally strong nation, North Carolina is a leader. North Carolina ranks top in tobacco and sweet potato production. As a state, we rank second in the production of hogs & pigs, trout, turkeys, Christmas trees and poultry & eggs.

The value of all farm crops and livestock in North Carolina is $9.6 billion. Agriculture and agribusiness — food, fiber, and forestry — account for almost one-fifth of the state’s income and employees. More than 17 percent, or $77 billion, of the $440 billion gross state product is contributed by food, fiber, and forestry industries.

A little closer to home, Caldwell and our neighboring county farmers (Avery, Alexander, Burke, Catawba, Watauga and Wilkes) produced $522 million worth of agricultural products. Wilkes County is the largest agricultural county in the western end of the state. Alone, Wilkes County farmers grow $276 million worth of farm products.

Caldwell County farmers grow $23 million worth of agricultural products. Nursery products account for over half of the $23 million farm income.

Of course once the products (corn, cattle, soybeans, hogs, nursery crops, etc.) leave the farm, their value increases with further processing. It is estimated that a farmer receives less than 10% of what the final consumer pays. For example, a loaf of bread is $2.00 in the store, but the loaf contains less than 10 cents worth of wheat. Using this math, consumers are spending $230 million for the crops grown in Caldwell county.

A record was set in 2012. North Carolina exported over $1 billion worth of agricultural products to China. I don’t know how this compares to what we sent China on “Black Friday”, but $1 billion sounds like a big number.

North Carolina’s top agricultural exports are tobacco, cotton, chicken meat and pork. Total yearly exports for the state are just shy of $4 billion.

The United States farmer is still an independent, hardworking, innovative lot. Agriculture is a bright spot in our local, State and National economy. Next time you get a chance, thank a farmer for what they do, they feed us and much of the world.