As the year of 2020 passes, American’s reflect on where they assign their most basic needs and values. The Covid-19 pandemic introduced us to challenges many have never seen before and fostered a renewed appreciation for the factory workers and farmers putting food on tables across the country.
In a recent American study, agriculture and farming was ranked as one of the most favorable U.S. industrial sectors. The coronavirus has forced us to ask, “Where does my food come from?” And more importantly, encouraged people to really redefine their relationships with the food supply chain and their impact on the industry’s sustainability.
Farming, rightfully so, has been deemed an essential industry during this time of uncertainty. Not only do agriculture and related industries provide over 10% of U.S. employment, but they contribute over $136 billion of gross domestic product to the economy, according to the USDA. The hidden hands that feed us have been shielded from the public eye – it’s important to understand that food doesn’t just appear at the grocery store or at a restaurant, but rather it is produced by humble individuals who work tirelessly to do so.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there has been “a growing understanding of how important stable food supply is to the health and well-being of our nation,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. Many American’s believe that a stable food supply is a matter of national security, and more aid needs to be provided to farmers who felt the shockwaves caused by the pandemic. In efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus, precautions were made at our nation’s borders, limiting the amount of expected workers coming to the U.S. from Mexico and other countries through the H-2A program. About 20% of farm workers in the U.S. come through the H-2A program, causing American farmers to work overtime to try and meet the demand of production. An American Farm Bureau Federation poll shows 84% of American’s trust our nation’s farmers and support aid from the government to keep the farms running.
We have learned some important lessons around the social connectedness a meal can encourage. When we think about how the year brought stay-at-home ordinances and marginal restaurant capacity, people were forced to reinvent the meaning of food and how a home cooked meal can foster new perspective and appreciation. As we look back on 2020 and thank those front line workers who helped us get through the year safely, we must not overlook the farm workers. After all, you can’t change the world on an empty stomach.