The United States of America recognizes March 24th as National Ag Day, a public holiday amidst National Agriculture Week. But why celebrate if you aren’t a farmer, or if you think your job and interests in no way relate to agriculture? While you may feel separated from agriculture, whether it be by profession/interests or by physical location, I am here to assure you that we all owe our everyday lifestyles to agriculture, and therefore we all already celebrate National Ag Day as consumers. Plus, this industry is not exclusive to farmers and ranchers; agriculture depends on trade skills, education, finance, marketing, creative writers, and more. In fact, one in twelve American jobs directly relates to agriculture.

A typical morning for any American is to wake up, get dressed, and eat breakfast before working or learning. Just within those first few hours of each day, we each depend on agriculture. Whether it be the food you eat, the milk in your cup of coffee, the cotton in clothes on your back, the ethanol in your perfume, the components of your medicine, or even something so simple as the glycerin in your toothpaste, your daily routine depends on agriculture. In our modern society, can you imagine growing everything you need by yourself in addition to your normal work and responsibilities? Thanks to the evolution of American farming which puts ample food on the grocery store shelves, we all have the option to pursue other specialized careers and lifestyles.

Agriculture includes not only the production of food, fuel, and fiber, but also the consumption of those things. As a consumer, your part in agriculture is vital to its and your prosperity. People who work directly within the agricultural industry appreciate few things more than informed, interested, and enthusiastic consumers. Even if in recent years the media has made you feel wary of the contents of your food or of the treatment of animals, farmers are aware of your concern and eager to help consumers to understand the truths about American agriculture. This industry does not only supply us with our food and fibers, but also answers our questions, continuously improves biotechnology, and conducts unprecedented research to feed our growing population. We have the agricultural industry to thank for our information on nutrition and food safety, sustainability of our environment, and much of STEM education. Not to mention, they also help in the fight against the opioid epidemic in our country as well as supply information on the climate and natural disasters.

Agriculture plays a part in everyone’s life. Vegans, omnivores, and everyone in between are fed by agriculture; no matter your diet, there is a farmer or rancher growing your food. “Without farmers, we’d all be hungry, naked, and sober.” The goal of National Ag Day is to remind us how integral agriculture is to our economy, to encourage Americans to thank the individuals involved in agriculture, to increase ag literacy, and to prove that each career within agriculture is truly essential. Farmers and ranchers never take a day off, rain or shine, and less than 2% of the population fuels the nation, so they deserve the appreciation.

Consider taking a minute to thank or shop from a local farmer today—87% of agricultural products in the United States are produced on a family farm or ranch. If you’re a teacher, you can integrate ag literacy into your classroom and teach students of all ages about the importance of farmers and about how many career opportunities are offered in this industry. Speak with your elected officials about what agriculture means to you and your community. Lack of agricultural appreciation and literacy negatively impacts our public policies, which in turn negatively impacts you, the consumer.

National Ag Day is just one day, so remember that it is just as important to appreciate agriculture every day. When you are in a supermarket or online, if you’re confused by a label or phrase don’t take it by face value, and rather consult your local Extension office, a farmer, or the producer’s website. Learn to recognize and purchase food grown locally in order to support your local farmers. Take this National Ag Day a step further than usual by not just being a consumer, but rather by becoming an informed consumer.

Agriculture makes our lives so much easier, safer, and more efficient, so what’s not to celebrate? Raise your glass to agriculture, and don’t forget that its contents are thanks to ag too.

Lucy H

Lucy Hutchinson is a proud Pennsylvanian. Her life goals include riding a bison, becoming a physician, visiting all seven continents, and retiring as an old beekeeper. She spends a majority of her time studying, reading, or worrying about not studying or reading. Amidst that worrying, you’re likely to find her gushing about Jane Austen, Israel, sun protection, agriculture, and GMOs.