Sunday, March 3, 2019

This essay is a merit winner in the 2019 Ag Day Essay Contest.  Visit for more details on National Ag Day.

Agriculture: Food for Life

How will our country lead the way?

Brody Allen Snook, Marseilles, IL

An elderly couple's house is filled with the shouting of gleeful children, the greetings of weary adults, and the barking of a perplexed dog.  Both young and old have come from afar to see each other for the first time in weeks, months, or even years.  It does not become clear until everyone gathers for dinner what the occasion is: Thanksgiving.  For a short couple hours, the grown-ups can take a break from their busy lives to reconnect with those they love, and the little ones can discover who has learned how the burp the alphabet.  And best of all, everyone is able to gorge themselves upon a feast fit for a king. 

American farmers—the unseen heroes in this scene—continue with their lives after the day is done without gratitude from the rest of society.  These farmers pull off small miracles every day by producing something that brings people with a common purpose together despite their differences.  The collaboration of cultivators across America to create the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is a prime example—turkey from Minnesota, stuffing from Kansas, potatoes from Kansas, etc. This conglomerate of food embodies the effort of farmers to feed the 325 million hungry bellies in this country three times a day, 365 days a year.  

This mission becomes progressively more challenging as the global population projects to reach 9 billion by 2050.  The never-ending task of satiating Americans will only remain attainable if agriculture technology continues to advance and increase produce yield.  Engineers must innovate new technology to maintain pace with population growth.  The potential advances in efficiency through the analysis of data from "smart agriculture" sensors is sufficient to pave the way for an era of cultivation powerful enough to sustain 9 billion lives.  Farms of the future will all have state-of-the-art sensors that can provide data on soil content, nutrient levels, compaction, air permeability, moisture, and pH in different areas of farmland.  The integration of this sheer amount of information allows farmers to optimize their use of finite resources.  Because farmers will know where their crops are deficient or thriving, there will be no more waste of water or pesticides in areas that do not need treatment.  Precision agriculture will maximize efficiency in agriculture to ensure the sustainability the growing global population. 

The promising future of American agriculture will provide encouragement for the next generations to join the effort as not only agribusinesses but also small family farms thrive in the era of integrated data.  Farming will become a picture of the future instead of a practice of the past.  And only by looking to future can we ensure the integrity of America and the rest of the world.