The May 2020 issue of The Town Crier featured a full-page, well-organized, and poignantly printed- in- bold lettering collage of all the essential workers working the front lines during this COVID-19 pandemic. The format of the document featured on page 22 under Chamber News had great eye appeal, and I quickly found myself poring over the list of occupations admiring how they were strategically placed.
The use of varying font sizes and degrees of bold lettering kept my attention while I scoured over the full-page acknowledgement to the essential workers. While this tribute to the commitment of our essential workers was indeed warranted, it is unfortunately flawed and incomplete.
Nowhere on the page did I find mention of farmers or the agriculture industry in general. My initial reaction to the absence of the occupation that provides an abundance of safe, reliable sustenance for our immediate communities and beyond was one of disbelief.The fact that the terms agriculture or local farmers, or even local food supply chain were not included only reinforces the fact that today’s consumers are now more than three generations removed from agriculture and the understanding of where their food comes from.
The closest the newspaper tribute came to referencing the significance of or involvement in our local food supply chain was in recognizing the grocery store personnel; a mere stretch in my opinion and a stern indication that there remains a huge disconnect between most consumers and knowledge of where their food originates from. I would offer this point of clarification that our food supply begins at the farm, not at the local grocery store.
The agriculture sector remains a strong economical driver as Oneida County’s main industry. The 2017 Ag Census County Profile for Oneida County reveals that just shy of 200,000 acres of farmland are managed, respected and cared for by nearly 1,000 dedicated farmers who contributed over $100 billion in market value sales.Despite recent economic down turns, increasing state and federal regulations, and mounting marketing limitations effecting the local agriculture sector, the farming community in Oneida County remains present, determined and passionate about providing for our region.
In my opinion as a local beef producer and an Oneida County Cooperative Extension Educator, those of us essential workers tied to agriculture genuinely, enjoy working the land, tending to livestock and crops in order to do our part to feed our local communities.The intention of this letter is not to garner attention or recognition, so much as, it is to raise awareness, to educate and attempt to bridge the gap between consumers and producers.All of us are experiencing significant challenges and uncertainties during this pandemic. It will take the continued efforts of all the essential workers, regardless of their position on the front line or on the back forty.
— Marylynn Mattison-Collins, Whitestown