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It is easy in today’s busy world to overlook and even under-appreciate the role agriculture plays in our communities, and the Leadership Shelby Class of 2014 embarked last month on its first field session affectionately known as Ag Day.
Despite the cold weather, the class got a behind-the-scenes look at some local farms, with an opportunity to learn first-hand from the farmers about their operations. While observing everything from a long-standing traditional dairy farm to a large corporate diversified operation, it became abundantly clear that agricultural production is a monumental undertaking that generates about $56 million annually in county revenues.
According to the state’s recent agricultural statistics, Shelby County ranks 26th in overall agriculture receipts from farm sales in Kentucky.
The Leadership Shelby class is made up of a diverse group of participants from all walks of life. Being exposed to the agricultural undertakings in the county certainly broadened individual perspectives, especially among those who have little or no association with farming personally or professionally.
One student commented that, “I came away with a renewed appreciation for how hard the farmers work and was impressed with the dedication and passion that they pour into their farms and the work they do there.”
To be sure, that likely sums it up for how all the class participants felt by the end of the day. Others expressed an appreciation for the contributions of Hispanic labor and the interactions between the farmer and his workers, many of whom traveled from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico as participants in the Federal Work Program H2A.
Much more could be said of Ag Day, but one thing is certain: The class of 2014 owes a debt of gratitude to the farmers and local sponsors who made the day a wonderful success.
Once things were all said and done, it was good to let it all soak in and reflect on the value and importance of farming in Shelby County. After all, farming in the county is really a microcosm within a broader scale and way of life that is fundamentally at the roots of American history.
Our Jeffersonian heritage as a farming class of people is still alive and well in Shelby County, and without it we would all be less likely to enjoy the quality of life we now have.
Thank you, farmers. And thank you, Pat Hargadon of Shelby County Farm Bureau and Corinne Belton, Shelby County Cooperative extension agent, for chairing Agriculture Day. Thanks also to Farm Credit Services and to the Farm Bureau board of directors for sponsoring our breakfast and lunch.
Fred J. Rogers is a member of Leadership Shelby Class of 2014.