Agriculture, like most industries across the U.S., has faced numerous challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic this past year. From worker safety to supply chain shortages, everyone from large corporations to small family farms have felt the effects.
Which is why this year’s National Agriculture Day is moving forward with its celebration—safely, in a virtual capacity.
National Agriculture Day, or Ag Day for short, began in 1973 with the formation of the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), a nonprofit organization of leaders in the agriculture, food and fiber communities dedicated to increasing awareness of the industry’s role in modern society.
The movement has continued to grow every year. Various companies, organizations, schools, farms and more find ways to integrate with the National Ag Day Program, holding events every March.
This year’s Ag Day will be observed Tuesday, March 23, and events are being planned nationwide. The ACA will hold its flagship event on that date. The program will include both live and pre-recorded segments, with remarks from government leaders on the industry’s economic growth opportunities and how the future will be shaped by lessons learned during the pandemic.
A representative from the collegiate Ag Day student program will share their experiences and participants will get to hear the winning Ag Day essay as well as view the winning Ag Day video.
2021’s Outstanding Young Farmers will also be recognized during the event.
“Hosting a virtual Ag Day event has led to some creative ways to celebrate American ag,” Jenny Pickett, president of ACA said in a press release. “The program will include informal thank you videos to farmers from individuals and companies in the industry, so even though we can’t gather in person, it will still have a personal feel and energy to it.”
In Santa Cruz County, National Ag Day is usually celebrated with the Spring Luncheon, an event organized by the Farm Bureau and the Watsonville-based Agri-Culture organization. The event brings together local farmers, educators, industry leaders and other community members to the county fairgrounds for a healthy meal made from locally-sourced crops.
During the meal, organizers present the Al Smith Friend of Agriculture Award and the Jimmie Cox Memorial Scholarship. Farm Bureau and Agri-Culture also sponsor a poster and poetry contest for local students, and winners are announced at the luncheon. The winners’ work is featured on placemats that are eventually sent to restaurants across the county.
Last year, the luncheon was postponed due to the pandemic and eventually held as a hybrid event. Guests were allowed to either dine in-person in an outdoor space or grab their meals to-go.
Jess Brown, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, says that they are once again postponing the luncheon this year, aiming to hold it in late May, in whatever capacity they can. They have gone forward with the poster and poetry contests—entries are now in and waiting to be judged—and are deep in the selection process for scholarships.
“[Our event] won’t be as connected to the week of Ag Day, but we are still doing all the activities to promote it,” Brown said. “It brings attention to the importance of agriculture in this country, especially here locally. Not only to provide food, but to celebrate the people who are involved in ag, at all levels. And it allows the comm to be part of that.”
Doron Comerchero, executive director of local youth organization Food, What?! who was a featured speaker at the Spring Luncheon in 2019, says observing National Ag Day is particularly important this year during the pandemic.
“Our neighbors in agriculture all around us are front line workers,” he said. “The people who wake up early each morning and head to the fields are part of the essential workers [who] we all rely on to keep us fueled up and healthy. I think of folks working in agriculture as healthcare and wellness heroes, providing our community and nation the fresh, vibrant produce we all need to thrive.”