What’s on Your Plate This Holiday Season?

— Written By

As we kick off the holiday season, many of us will gather with family and friends to practice the age-old tradition of sharing a meal.

Food not only nourishes us, it brings us together as we talk, laugh, reminisce and enjoy each other’s company. After we give thanks and count our many blessings that we have in our lives, we fill our plates with healthy servings of turkey, green beans, pumpkin pie, and several other delicious sides.

Although every family’s meal may look a little different, there is a good chance that a large portion of the food you enjoy was grown or raised right here in North Carolina. NC farmers contribute their fair share of traditional foods we eat during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. For example, did you know that North Carolina ranks second in the nation for turkey production? In 2018, NC produced an estimated 32 million turkeys. We’ll need a whole lot of dressing to stuff all those turkeys!

Another popular holiday dish is ham. Our state also ranks second in hog production with over 8 million raised each year. What about sweet potatoes? Sweet potato pie or casserole is a pretty common dish this time of the year. There are about 80,000 acres of sweet potatoes grown in our state each season and farmers produce enough to make a billon sweet potato pies! If you already knew this, then It’s probably no surprise that our farmers alone produce over half the country’s supply of sweet potatoes!

As we wrapped up our Farmer’s Appreciation luncheon earlier this week, some points from our guest speaker, Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr. Sandy Stuart, resonated with me as we prepared our Thanksgiving meal at home. North Carolina farmers help feed people at home and around the globe. Crops grown right here in North Carolina can be found for sale in Hong Kong, Canada, Japan, and throughout Europe. That means our crops may travel thousands of miles to end up on someone’s plate in parts of the world I’ve never seen.

However, it’s important to remember that a farmer in NC feeds more than one person in Hong Kong or Japan. In a single year, the average American farmer produces enough to feed one hundred and fifty-five people. Right here in the U.S., less than two percent of our population feeds all 320 million of us. Based on these statistics, it’s safe to say that farmers a pretty good at their job: Keeping a growing world fed even when all odds are against them. Agriculture contributes almost 90 billion dollars to our economy. Without farmers, our number one industry would not exist.

Our farmers and their livelihood are often threatened by extreme weather events, poor market prices, lawsuits, tariff challenges, and increasing operation costs. With the many hurdles farmers face, the average person may ask, “Is farming really worth all the trouble?” After being flooded by two major hurricanes in three years, I once asked a young farmer if he ever considered a change in careers. He replied, “This is all I know. This is what I was meant to do.”

Farming is more than a job or career. It is a way of life that very few of us get to experience. As you gather around the table with loved ones this holiday season and return thanks for your meal, remember to bless those hands that grew it.

If you have any questions regarding livestock or field crops please give Anthony Growe, livestock and field crop agent, a call at (910) 997-8255.