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Borderlines: Sketches from the Empty Quarter: National Ag Day

By GK Harkness

March 29, 2023

I didn’t wake up this morning knowing this was National Ag Day.

Well... that was certainly a surprise to see in my Facebook feed. It was the proverbial bolt out of the blue. I mean I had absolutely no idea there was a special day for Ag.

And this is coming from someone who has been an Aggie his entire life.

On occasion some of my friends and neighbors HAVE let me know I was “unique” ...but I don’t think the connotation was necessarily one of admiration and it was always accompanied by an exaggerated eyeroll.

Honestly, I’ve never felt my occupation was special.

It has often felt … tired … yeah. Frustrated … uh-huh. Neglected, overlooked, dangerous, taken for granted, heart-breaking and demonized … that too. It also feels jubilant, breathtaking, reverent, spiritual and blessed.

We Aggies are nothing if not a mystifying stew of contradictions to our urban friends and neighbors.

All in all, it’s been a good life for me.

But not for everyone.

Researchers at the University of Iowa found that farmers, and others in the agricultural trade, had the highest suicide rate of all occupations from 1992 to 2010, the years they studied in 2017. The rate was 3.5 times that of the general population. According to the National Ag Safety Database, nonfatal injuries, occur to about a third of the farm and ranch population annually. Three percent of these injuries result in permanent disabilities.

Apparently we’re more careless than special.

Next year when “National Ag Day” rolls around, rather than think of us as “special,” just consider for a moment the true cost of that salad or steak. There really is still such a thing as blood, sweat and toil even in this day of miraculous technology. Somebody has to get their hands dirty. We can’t do it alone. You’re our support team. All of you out there: mechanics, factory workers, salespersons, truckers, energy producers, medical teams, LEOs, teachers, IT people, construction trades, engineers, consumers, active duty military members, lenders and the entire fabric of American society. We need each other.

Maybe we should all simply try to appreciate one other a little more every day and not just once a year.