As we sat down to breakfast, I could see that Dharma was enjoying his repast. "Irwin," he said thoughtfully,"I came here with a lesson in mind but having tasted your wonderful apple coffee cake, I've decided we will study something else entirely different. As you were preparing this elegant meal, did you stop to give thanks for the farmers who grew the grains and planted the apple trees?" "Uh, no," I replied rather sheepishly. "Well," said the wise frog, "Perhaps you should. For without the farmer, there'd be no food." And thus began today's lesson.
Dharma reminded me that once in our life we will all need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, and a preacher; but every day, three times a day, we need the farmer. How true it is! And somehing we often forget. We take the farmer for granted and yet, farming as an occupation, is in decline. Young people no longer want to work on the family farm; too little money and way too many long hours. Farmers are vital for our continued survival.
My wise friend and mentor did enlighten me with some interesting facts about farming that I'll pass along:
1. Farming began about 10,000 years BC and, shortly there after, the plow was developed in the Middle East. The earliest plow was called an ard and was, most probably, made from sharpened tree branches. Plows are considered to be one of the most important inventions in the avancement of society.
2. Fruit farming began sometime between 6000 and 3000 BC. Figs were one of the first cultivated fruits grown.
3. Bananas are the number one fruit crop in the world and the fourth largest crop overall. India grows more bananas than any other country.
4. More than 6,000 varieties of apples are grown around the world. The largest apple producer is China, followed by the US, Iran, Turkey, then Russia.
5. Tractors were invented in the 1880's to pull the plows through the fields. By the 1920's the modern all-purpose tractor had been developed.
6. Farmers often plant tall, dense trees around their fruit orchards. The trees help to protect from soil erosion.
7. The tallest, biggest trees and bushes don't always yield the most fruit. Contolling the height of the plant helps to produce the most fruit in less space.
8. Livestock farming feeds billions of people and employs 1.3 billion people. That means that about 1 in 5 people, world-wide, are employed in some aspect of livestock farming!
9. There are 2.2 million farms in the United States; 97% of which are owned by families, family partnerships, or family corperations.
10. Farm and ranch families comprise only 2% of the entire US population
11. Farmers today produce 262% more food with 2% fewer inputs (seeds, labor, fertilizers, etc.) than they did in 1950.
12. One in three farm acres is planted for export.
13. More than 100 agricultural crops in the US are pollinated by bees. In fact, one out three bites of food people eat is thanks to the honeybee! They contribute more than $15 billion worth of crops every year through pollination.
14. More than 60% of farmers in the US are age 55 and older which has led to concerns about the long-term health of family farms.
15. Today's farms grow more than just "food, feed, and fiber." They also grow crops that are processed into fuel, like corn into ethanol and soybean oil into diesal fuel.
With all my new insights and information on farming, I can see just how imortant it is to remember to thank the farmer for giving us the food we eat. Dharma finished up our lesson, and his breakfast, then left me with this last piece of froggy wisdom: "Irwin, when eating a fruit, rememer the frog who planted the tree."
Thanks, Dharma. I will.