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Talking it over: Clean your plate

When I was young my parents used to tell me to clean my plate because there were many starving children in Africa who would love to have the food I left. As an adult I passed those same words of wisdom on to my children and now my grandchildren. It really is nothing to take for granted. A full plate of food is a blessing and something we need to appreciate each time one is set before us.

In the paper this week, we are recognizing the role that agriculture plays in our lives. Agriculture is not just a way of life or means to make a living but a vital part of life for people around the world. One farm can feed thousands of people through the products grown and distributed throughout the world.

However, in today's world, farming or agriculture is much more than simply growing crops for food. Those same crops are used in many other ways too. They are so diversified that you would not be able to exist if the corn, soybeans or wheat products could not be used to make some of the non-food items. The container you eat from, table you sit by or fuel used to prepare the food, could all be made from ag products.

Agriculture has seen many changes over the years. As a child, my parents grew crops and raised animals that primarily fed the family and kept us going throughout the year. Most of the crops were fed to the dairy cows from which the milk was sold as our primary source of income. Other farms raised cattle in feedlots with the crops that were raised, used to fatten the cattle.

The existence of feedlots and small dairy farms has dropped. Those crops can make more money by selling them directly instead of feeding to animals. The dairy farms and feedlots that do exist, have gotten much larger and streamlined. The days of daily chores on small farms have become almost non-existent.

Equipment used in agriculture has also changed. With larger equipment, the time needed to plant and harvest has shortened leading to larger farms, less farm sites and fewer farmers. However, agriculture encompasses more than just the family farm.

Many people work in the agriculture industry who do not farm or even live on a farm. The industry is interwoven with many other aspects of our lives and existence. Agriculture is not just about farming anymore.

Next time you look at the food on your plate and consider the leftovers, remember the agri-business people who made it possible to fill that plate. Through their hard work and dedication to the industry, we have the priviledge to be able to clean our plates, fill our stomachs and know that farmers everywhere are working to feed those hungry children, not only in Africa, but throughout the world.