Op-ed: We’re free to follow our passion, thanks to productive farmers, ranchers

For immediate release: March 18, 2015

Media contact:
Katie Goetz, Public Information Officer
575-646-2804 office

In what categories can you count yourself among “the two percent”?

I’ll waste this sentence so you can really ponder that question.

Did agriculture spring to mind?  If not, you’ll find this statistic surprising: Less than two percent of Americans are directly involved in production agriculture.  In other words, 98 percent of us are disconnected from the farm and ranch in terms of time, physical distance, or both.

Because we are disconnected from farms and ranches, we are dependent upon them for the things that only they can provide: food, fiber, and more.  If ever there’s a time to be aware of and appreciate that fact, it is now during National Agriculture Week.

A century ago, most people produced their own food either entirely or in part – and that was because they had to.  But leaps in technology opened up new ways of tending to farm and ranch work, new ways of sharing knowledge about farming and ranching, new ways of marketing what farms and ranches produce.  What hasn’t changed is the passion that farmers, ranchers, and others in production agriculture bring to their work.

This is true for my family.  I’m proud of my roots in New Mexico agriculture, having been raised on a ranch in northern New Mexico that was homesteaded by my grandfather in 1921.  Our ranch was a medium-sized operation, which provided a living for a family through hard work and a commitment to the land and livestock.  I enjoyed the spring when the baby calves were born, breathing fresh life into the ranch as we emerged from the winter months.  I also enjoyed the summer work, when we moved cattle to the high country and improved our land by implementing range conservation measures.  But my family’s favorite time of year was the fall, when we sold the calf crop to earn our one annual paycheck.

As we celebrate National Agriculture Week, I reflect on my own experiences and the impact agriculture has had on our world development.  Because we don’t have to worry about growing our own food, we can put our time to other passions.  That means that 98 percent of us in the U.S. are free to pursue careers in teaching, medical care, and other fields that continue to improve our standard of living.

Please take a moment during National Agriculture Week to reflect on what you eat and the foods you enjoy.  Think about the two percent who are American farmers and ranchers who work every day to produce the food, so you can dedicate your talents to other endeavors that also improve our standard of living.

Agriculture contributes to what makes New Mexico the special place it is.  Our magnificent landscapes provide essential ingredients so our farmers and ranchers can help provide the bounty that helps feed our state, nation, and the world.


Jeff M. Witte


New Mexico Department of Agriculture