Gainesville, Fla. --- When most people walk into a grocery store, the shelves are stocked year-round with all the food they want, so they might not consider the origins of their food.
Jack Payne, University of Florida senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, says it’s critical to know the origins of our food supply, and not just the sake of being aware.
“As a nation, we’ve recently declared that getting too much of our steel from abroad is a national security issue,” Payne says. “I would argue that producing our own food is even more essential for the security of our nation. Where that food comes from speaks to the reliability, safety, and affordability of our food supply.”
March 20 marks the 45th annual National Ag Day, a time to reflect on the sources of our food and fiber.
The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension does all it can to help bridge the awareness gap between the public and agriculture – and its ties to the environment -- says Nick Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.
“Extension delivers science-based information to a multitude of stakeholders, including our farmers and ranchers,” he says. “Our Extension faculty do an outstanding job day in and day out to make sure producers are kept abreast of the best findings from our research so they can bring consumers nutritious food, while maintaining environmentally sustainable practices.”
With help from many groups – including agriculture commodity groups and schools – UF/IFAS Extension educates the public about the critical role agriculture plays in our daily lives, Place says.
Extension faculty derive their data from researchers. UF/IFAS researchers are constantly working to develop alternative crops – like peaches and pomegranates – so farmers can grow a wider variety of foods.
“We create new varieties of food and plants that have longer shelf life and an appealing appearance,” he says. “We create new foods that require less water and fertilization.”
UF/IFAS scientists work to improve current crops as well, Payne says.
The theme for National Ag Day is “Agriculture: Food For Life.” The agriculture council encourages everyone to:
• Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
• Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
• Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
• Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.
Agriculture is connected to life in many ways, says Nan Jensen, a family and consumer sciences agent for UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County.
“Farmers produce a wide variety of foods that fuel and sustain us and help keep us healthy,” Jensen says. “In developing countries, agriculture helps provide food security and prevents malnourishment.”
Agriculture touches our lives in other ways as well, she says.
“The many agricultural products that are produced are used to make the medicines we take, the personal care products we use, the clothes we wear, the homes we live in and the cars we drive,” Jensen says.
Libbie Johnson, an agriculture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County, says that without agriculture, people would be hungry, naked and homeless.
“We depend on agriculture at least three times a day for meals,” Johnson says. “Each morning, we put on clothes made with fabric produced from agricultural products like cotton, linen and wool.”
“We leave our homes built from wood grown in sustainable timber systems,” Johnson says. “Many of the daily products we use are derived from agriculture — cosmetics, leather goods, paper and personal care products. Agriculture is an essential part of everyone’s daily life.”