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Do you know where your food comes from? (hint: it’s not the grocery store)

I’m often amazed when I ask young kids where the food on the table comes from and they tell me the store. And it’s not just the little ones, many grown folks have no idea the origins of the meals they eat daily.

If you’re like many Americans, the answer is the grocery store. And frankly, that disturbs me. The grocery store isn’t where food comes from – it’s just the last leg in the distribution chain. In reality, far too many people are unaware of the role of American agriculture in their daily lives . . . and what it really takes to have food on their dinner table.

Just a few generations ago, most people were a part of – and had friends or relatives involved with – agriculture. I recall as a child going into the backyard to pick some greens or frantically trying to snag a chicken that would later be plucked and sizzled in coconut oil.

Today, that’s no longer the case.

Like most Americans, my food comes off the shelf at the grocery store. Or even better, the farmers market, where I can find specialty foods from my culture, like cassava or ackee for a nice weekend breakfast. Yum.

Food Brings Everyone to the Table

Eating healthy is not just about the food in front of us, it’s also about how it got there. The Agriculture Council of America invites us to honor of the hardworking farmers who make it possible for us to enjoy meals together. For 47 years, they have been promoting agriculture with the annual National Ag Day, and this year’s theme is “Food Brings Everyone to the Table.” That is so true, especially in my household.

From my days in upstate New York, there were plenty of farms to see first-hand real, honest to goodness farmers at work. When the winter breaks, weekly trips to the farm stands or berry picking was a Saturday pastime. Sadly, city life in the ATL doesn’t bring much opportunities to hang out with local farmers. But there are still ways to celebrate the gifts from Mother Earth:

Make a Farm-to-Table Meal
Making a meal together is an easy activity for spending quality time with your entire family, but you can turn it into a learning experience and an opportunity to talk about where food comes from by combining seasonal produce like asparagus, peas, broccoli, oranges and lemons with ingredients your state is known for such as pork, apples, almonds, beef or corn, for example.

Research Agricultural Issues
From climate change and protecting air, soil and water to feeding a growing global population and using technology to improve food production, there are a variety of issues facing the agriculture industry. To be more aware of what the future may hold, consider making yourself more familiar with some of the challenges farmers face, especially organic farmers.

Consider Agricultural Careers
For students and young adults considering their futures, joining the 22 million people who work in agriculture-related fields can be a rewarding pursuit. While the most obvious careers in agriculture are directly related to the farm or ranch, today’s agriculture offers more than 200 careers from research and engineering to food science, landscape architecture, urban planning and more.

Tour a Local Farm or Dairy
Taking a tour of a farm or dairy (or both) can provide a better understanding of how food and fiber products are produced and the role agriculture plays in producing them. Make it a group outing with friends or family to help more people see the process food goes through from production to sitting on store shelves.

Contact Legislators in Support of Farm and Food Initiatives
The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 created reform for United States Department of Agriculture programs through 2023. To get more hands-on, you can contact your legislators to show support for farming initiatives like local FFA and 4-H programs as well as those that can help improve opportunities for farmland leasing, subsidies, urban gardening, food hubs and other ag-focused resources and operations.

Visit a Farmers Market
Open seasonally, farmers markets can provide a perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with your food and the people who grow it. Prices are usually competitive with traditional grocery stores and oftentimes better, plus some markets offer free samples as well as music and games so you can make an event out of picking up some fresh produce to use in family meals.

Volunteer at a Community Garden, or Start one
Many cities and neighborhoods, even those in more urban areas, provide plots of land community members can use to grow food for themselves or to donate within the community. Consider setting aside some time each week to give back by cleaning out flower beds, laying mulch or planting flowers and crops in the designated areas.

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