There was a time when I was younger that National Agriculture Day didn’t resonate with me the way it does now. I was a city kid growing up in the suburbs of northeast Memphis. I just didn’t have an appreciation for where food and fiber came from. I remember that my mother always looked for sales and clipped coupons before we went shopping at the Pic-Pac Food Store at Summer and Highland in the 1950s. My brother and I would tag along and watch how carefully she inspected the meat and vegetables before she put the items into the basket. We mainly watched and tried to stay out of her way.
But there was no question that shopping at a grocery store was a major event at the Horton house. My parents were both children of the Depression, and they knew what it was like to deal with feeding hungry families. In those difficult days in the 1930s, a meal was appreciated by Depression families. Maybe that’s why my parents put so much emphasis on family meals. It was a time to be together, and we always appreciated anything that my mother cooked for us. And, yes, we always said the blessing before we ate.
I sometimes wonder if today’s generation might have a better appreciation for farmers if they had lived during the Depression the way my parents did. My father (a World War II veteran), came from a large family of eight children. Mealtime time was an experience where food needed to be shared equally at the table. It wasn’t easy in those days, but my father must have cherished any kind of meal when he was a child. By the time, my brother and I came along, we had a family tradition around 6 pm each day. That’s when the family gathered and ate dinner. And, yes, my father always cleaned his plate and never complained about any meal my mother prepared. He was thankful for anything – because he could remember what it was like during the Depression when soup lines were prominent everywhere. To have regular meals in those days was a true blessing.
My mother’s family was involved in what we now call “sharecropping.” They moved to different areas of the Mid-South farming and managing acreage for different landowners. It was difficult work, but nobody could have had a greater appreciation for food than my mother. In those days as a young child, she often helped her mother pick cotton by walking along with her own sack. She also helped in tending the family garden.
So, you can probably see where I am going with these thoughts. Having an appreciation for the work that farmers do is important in today’s fast-paced world. When I see people walking through a grocery store or a clothing store, I wonder if they really know what farmers did to make sure the grocery store aisles and clothing stores are filled to capacity. I can assure you that my parents never took farmers for granted. My father passed away in 1999, but he always reminded us of what it was like to survive the Depression. My mother, now 86, reminds me every day what it was like to eke out a living in those days.
National Agriculture Day should be a time to celebrate what our farmers do for us every day of the year. Here’s hoping that we never forget.