Second In A Series
BY GEORGE C. MAYS
UT PROFESSOR EMERITUS
Today, March 19, is National Agriculture Day -- a day to recognize and celebrate the contribution of agriculture in our everyday lives.
Greene County farmers have long been recognized for their role in providing an abundance of food, fiber and fuel for a growing population.
Generation after generation of farmers have been getting up early and working long hours each day to produce safe, abundant and affordable products. The farming practices have changed dramatically over the years, but the hard work and long hours associated with farming have changed very little.
The 2007 Agricultural Census reports 3,061 farms in Greene County, down nine percent from 3,367 farms in 2002.
Just over 1,300 local farmers are classified as full-time farmers. They receive the largest percentage of their income from farming.
Another 3,367 are part-time farmers, receiving less than one-half of their family income from farm sales.
Greene County ranks seventh in the state in the total value of agricultural products sold.
The top crops expressed in acreage are forage, corn for silage, corn for grain, tobacco and soybeans.
The top livestock inventory numbers are cattle and calves, broilers, sheep and lambs, horses and ponies.
Quite simply, local farmers are doing more, and doing it better. Each farmer currently feeds more than 144 people -- a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s.
There was a time in cattle farming when you just turned animals loose to eat whatever was green and growing in a field. Today a good beef producer knows better than that.
In this era of quality beef production, nutrition is key in forage production. The reality is that you're a grass farmer, and the way you're selling that grass is through your animals.
Most row-crop fields are dormant now, but not much longer. As this wet, cool, not-quite-winter turns to spring, Tennessee farmers will be planting their crops and looking for a repeat of last year's prices.
More people are planning to grow corn and soybeans, and some are looking for more ground to rent to produce more of their favorite crops this coming year.
So it's an optimistic time.
While a lot can happen between spring planting and fall harvest, farmers go into the season with the expectation of good times ahead.
According to recent USDA studies, the agricultural sector right now remains a bright spot in terms of economic stability and growth, and there is a strong demand for U.S. agricultural products.
As research advances, the future may be even brighter.
New uses for agricultural products are being found to utilize natural ingredients for life-saving medicines and supply the critical commodities required in a long list of manufacturing sectors.
Today, National Ag Day, and throughout this week of March 18-22, National Ag Week, we salute the 4,669 farmers in Greene County, and farmers throughout the nation who contribute to the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.