A message to the FFA: Thank you

You may have watched the TV commercial airing during the Super Bowl about farmers. Millions did. It was masterfully crafted.

A tribute message of famed radio broadcaster Paul Harvey to farmers provided a backdrop to a montage of still photographs. The images were simple yet stark, plain yet powerful. As were his words.

Harvey’s brilliant “So God Made a Farmer” speech was delivered during a 1978 national Future Farmers of America convention. It resonates today. So do future farmers.

National Future Farmers of America Week is observed Feb. 16-23. The organization “Future Farmers of America” – or FFA as we all know it – was founded in 1928 by young farmers. Its mission was to prepare subsequent generations with the task of feeding a growing populace across our country.

Farmers have done just that. And living where we do in counties like Columbiana and Mahoning we can appreciate that. If you aren’t a farmer in our parts, you certainly know someone who is a crop producer or dairy farmer. Or both. Living where we do, where so much farming and related activities occur, you can’t help but acknowledge the day in, day out effort of our local farmers. They don’t always get weekends and holidays off like most of us. Rising and setting suns are their time clocks. Many got their start, got their work ethic nurtured, in Future Farmers of America.

Times have changed and so has farming. The technology and means of production have changed but a constant remains: farming requires passion, dedication and hard work. The presence of farming in our area is borne out by these figures: 1,030 farms with an acreage average of 125 acres per in Columbiana County; and, 560 farms with an average of 111 acres per farm in Mahoning County. Columbiana County is just one of 26 of Ohio’s 88 counties with a 1,000-plus farms.

According to the Ohio Farm Bureau, one in seven jobs in our state is related to agriculture. Each farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people per year. In 1960 it was 25.8 people per year. The average person consumes 584 pounds of dairy products a year.

Food and agriculture is Ohio’s top industry, accounting for a staggering $93.8 billion of our state’s economy with actual farm gate receipts of $7.2 billion. There are 75,500 farms in Ohio with an average size being 188 acres. Forty-two percent of farms are fewer than 50 acres. Ohio has a total of 14.3 million acres of land in farms.

Today’s farmers were yesterday’s youngsters. As farmers harvested their skills, they were passed down to the next generation. We see very familiar family names branded into barns across our local landscape. It’s what these families do, it’s what they know, it’s what they have been doing for decades. Future Farmers of America has been critical in the ongoing succession. Our own area has the following FFA chapters: West Branch, United Local, Beaver Local, Minerva and Southern Local high schools; and, the Columbiana and Mahoning counties joint vocational schools. During the 2010-2011 academic year, the Ohio FAA Association had 23,335 members in 302 chapters.

According to the group’s website, the letters FFA stand for Future Farmers of America. However the official name of the organization was changed in 1988 to the National FFA organization. That was done to reflect an encompassing of all agriculture aspects, from production farming, agribusiness and forestry to biotechnology, marketing and food processing. Members take a creed based on deeds and not mere words. We see much of their fine work during events such as county fairs and 4H activities. A proud youngster at a fair showing an animal he or she raised is refreshing because of its sheer timelessness.

It’s been said that farming is a business, science and even an art. Our area’s farmers reflect that. We can take assurance knowing that another generation is ascending to fulfill all that farmers do for us. The FAA motto is comprised of 12 words to live by: “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Service.” We respond to that with two words of our own: Thank you. Paul Harvey had it right.