Let’s Not Lose Touch With Food Production

Ashland Daily Tidings Editorial of February 22, 1993  written by Brent Thompson 

Some modifications in this 2022 update.

 Since the early 1950’s there has been and increasing disassociation of mainstream America prom the production of  food. Major reasons for this are increasing mechanization and increased productivity which resulted in a smaller percentage of the population being able to feed the rest.   The family farm is not totally a relic of the past, but food production is now big business, a concept inconsistent with the concept of the “family farm”.  Harvesting is now more often done by contract labor than by family members or neighbors.     

A negative aspect if this trend is that many now see food as something that comes from the supermarket or super store instead of from a farm or orchard.   We don’t link what we see in the supermarket with its source.  This is unfortunate because food production is a basic activity in any society.  Knowledge of agriculture is important in maintaining the proper societal values and priorities.  To forfeit close ties to agriculture is to forfeit an important link to the essence of life.

By being ignorant and divorced from agriculture we may not have an appreciation for the importance of maintaining an agricultural base in a community.  When that happens we are more likely to cover farmland with buildings or adversely affect farming by not providing adequate safeguards to protect farming activities.  Proper safeguards can be adequate setbacks, limits on well drilling, restrictions on complaints about normal farming activities, and limits on activities that might adversely affect farming activities.

Working in planting and harvesting is not easy work, and it is not necessarily unskilled work.  The pay is low but not lower than pay in fast food restaurants.  And there is value in learning about such a basic societal activity.

Another aspect of this is that a lot of people don’t want to do farm work.  But when there is a job in society that few want, then the pay for that job is too low.  Pay should be raised and customers should bear the costs.     

While educators talk about linking practical experience with educational experience, let’s hope they also consistently emphasize the relationship between a healthy society and food production.  Let’s hope that some scheduling and activities are planned so children are exposed early to the essential industry of farming.  Summer vacations were originally scheduled so young people could help on family farms.  Somewhere we lost sight of that, and which was a mistake.  If school years no longer coincide with harvests, they should be modified so that they do.               

Once our youth is exposed to farming, there will be more of a probability that as adults they will continue to either involve themselves in harvests or maintain an appreciation for the necessity of safeguarding agricultural lands.  They will connect sprawl with the loss of the local agricultural base.

Retired people who might spend part of each year traveling in RV’s often would have time to participate in harvests.  And those working in offices all year might consider “working vacations” on farms or ranches to vary their routine.  The point is that we should not assume that no one wants to work in harvesting but full time farm workers.   And the industry should reach out to find workers.  

How we integrate ourselves as a society into a closer contact with agriculture is not important as long as we do it.  We will be a healthier society when a higher proportion of us feel that basic tie to the land and the food it produces. We can’t just be a society of “button pushers” and “screen watchers”.

Political leaders often indicate an impatience and frustration when they talk about our loss of important societal values.  They need to recognize the link between a healthy society and a basic of life such as agriculture.  They need to ensure that part of the educational process is an on going exposure to it.   There is a link between a healthy society and agriculture. 


Brent Thompson has worked seasonally in grape harvesting since 2013