Celebrate farming – Editorial

The San Juan County Fair, Aug. 17 – 20, is not only a fun event, but a celebration of agriculture and islanders who are maintaining practices of the past. Why is that important? The short answer is farming makes for better communities. But a life of toiling in the soil is not always easy.

My grandfather was a dairy farmer. He started working on the farm when he was 10. Until the day he died, at age 90, he called himself just a “dumb farm boy who never graduated from high school.” But what always struck me was his immense knowledge about the natural world. He could find morel mushrooms even when they were hidden under a thick thatch of ferns. Farming taught him how to thrive on a small budget. He often boasted that during the depression his lunch box was always full of farm-fresh food. For more than 40 years his life revolved around milking the cows, shoveling out their stalls and all the other back-breaking work of running a farm. His life was not always easy – in fact, it was mostly difficult – but at the end of it all, he had something you can’t put a value on: pride.

A society thrives when people can feed each other; when people can join with one another in the creation of meals rather than the destruction of lives. There is a wealth of opportunities to support farmers, like purchasing local produce. At the San Juan County Fair, you can watch the weaving of sheep’s wool, view prized vegetables grown in well-loved gardens and visit livestock that has been cared for by young and old farmers.

The fair is also a place to grow hope. Just look at the kids proudly showing off their chickens and rabbits or their homemade jam. We have to continue rewarding kids to be connected to the earth, to animals, to soil and the ultimate cycle. So get involved and celebrate practices that are in danger of dying off.

Here are some facts to consider:

• Fewer people are now full-time farmers (less than 1 percent of the population) than are full-time prisoners, according to Worldwatch Institute.

• Farmers over age 65 outnumber those under 35 by three to one, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

• 1.7 billion tons of topsoil vanish to erosion each year in the U.S. — enough to fill 1,200 Empire State buildings, according to the American farmland Trust.

If you are a business that wants to support the printing of the fair guide while also spreading the word about your services, there is still advertising space in our San Juan County Fair Guide. For sizes, costs and deadlines email Cali at cbagby@sanjuanjournal.com. If you want to see last year’s fair guide, visit sanjuanjournal.com and click on green editions.