Agriculture is an important industry today, as it has been for hundreds of years. Agriculture production provides the food, fiber and shelter most all of us as consumers use daily. Since we all eat and wear clothes, we are involved in agriculture, maybe not from a production side but as a consumer of the production. Agriculture is the nation’s largest employer, with more than 23 million jobs.

According to the American Farm Bureau, farm and ranch families comprise just 2 percent of the U.S. population. Today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared to what they produced in 1950. Americans enjoy a food supply that is abundant, affordable overall and among the world’s safest, thanks in large part to the efficiency and productivity of America’s farm and ranch families.

When we think about our food and fiber, many of us think about the grocery stores and restaurants around us. While a lot of our food is purchased and consumed there, it is actually raised on farms and ranches across Texas and the United States.

Agriculture in Texas exceeds $20 billion annually. The American farmer today produces enough food to feed 155 people, while the farmer in 1960 produced enough food to feed 26 people. Texas Food Connection Week is recognized in Texas each February to help consumers realize and recognize where their food and fiber comes from.

Smith County has a rich heritage in the agriculture field. Smith County has farmers and ranchers who produce cattle, hay, timber, fruits and vegetables, and other horticultural crops to name a few. The horticulture and rose industry in Smith County is one example. Tyler is nicknamed the Rose Capital of the World.

The top five commodities in Smith County include horticulture, beef cattle, hay and forage, timber, and fruit and vegetables. Agriculture in Smith County averages between $175 million to $195 million annually. These farmers and ranchers are the business managers for their operations. They have business plans, goals and marketing, for example, to consider when making decisions for their operations. Inputs like labor, seeds, fuel, feed, fertilizer and more must be taken into account with each decision made.

Farmers and ranchers are always preparing for the future. In winter, we are preparing land, livestock and crops for spring. In spring, we are always preparing for summer. In summer, we are getting ready for winter. It can be a gamble on knowing when to plant, when to not plant, or when to fertilize or not fertilize.

Stewardship and conservation also are factors considered with farmers and ranchers. Farmers and ranchers in Texas and America value their land, animals, water and other resources. Many work the farm to enhance livestock production while enhancing food and shelter for wildlife as well. Many farmers realize the best defense against weeds is a dense stand of grass. Insects can be beneficial to farmers and ranchers. but when some insects are causing economic damage, control options are examined using the Integrated Pest Management approach.

Each farmer and rancher works countless hours in all types of weather and conditions to raise food and fiber for us and their families. While they are producers of agricultural goods they, are also consumers of the same goods.