Thank a farmer

Published 10:09 pm Monday, March 9, 2009

One of the best things about being a reporter is the opportunity to meet new people almost every day.

Being a reporter in Suffolk, I’ve met several farmers in the last few years. These farmers have won such awards as Farm Family of the Year, Farm Woman of the Year, top peanut producer in the state, and other honors unique to their occupation.

Most recently, I interviewed the 2009 Farm Family of the Year – James, Glenda, Matthew, Kristy and Zachariah Johnson. The family lives in the Holland area, and a portion of the land they farm is the land James’ grandfather farmed many years ago.

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Also last week, I interviewed John Crumpler, Virginia’s highest-producing peanut farmer in 2008. A few months ago, I interviewed the runner-up for Farm Woman of the Year, Shelley Butler Barlow. I’ve also interviewed past farm families of the year and many others that I come across in my daily work with the News-Herald.

During my interviews with these farmers, one thing invariably comes through — these people make incredible sacrifices to do one of the most essential occupations in our society. Without farmers, we wouldn’t have food to eat, jeans to wear or trees to put in our homes at Christmas. Farmers raise animals we use for our meat and dairy products. They produce vegetables and fruits that are either sold as is, or processed into thousands of food products. They produce cotton, the main ingredient in jeans and many other essential clothes.

However, farmers are increasingly becoming an endangered species. The combined costs of supplies, equipment, taxes and other expenses don’t always equal the amount they are able to get for their products. All over the country, many farmers are tempted to sell out to developments for fear that they will not survive otherwise.

Fortunately, here in Suffolk, large portions of the city remain ripe for farming. The vast expanse of land between Holland and Whaleyville, and north of Holland, plays host to many farms growing all kinds of agricultural products. Suffolk residents are fortunate that they don’t have to drive very far to “buy local” for their fruits and vegetables, especially since the city hosts a farmer’s market on Saturdays during the summer in the downtown area.

So, the next time you eat food or wear jeans, remember to thank a farmer. They do a lot of backbreaking work so that the rest of us can live comfortably.