The Town Crier, published in May 2020, features a bold all-page collage, well-organized, and sharply printed from all the important workers who worked on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The document format displayed on page 22 under Chamber News has a great eye appeal, and I soon found a list of jobs that marveled at how they were strategically placed.
The use of various font sizes and bold letters still caught my eye while I checked the pages full of recognition for important workers. Although respect for the commitments of our important workers is justified, unfortunately this is flawed and incomplete.
There is no page where I find mention of farmers or the agricultural industry in general. My initial reaction to the absence of a job that provided plenty of safe and reliable food for our closest community and beyond was distrust. The fact that the terms local agriculture or farmers, or even local food supply chains are not included only reinforces the fact that consumers today are now more than three generations excluded from agriculture and an understanding of where their food comes from.
The closest to newspaper tribute to refer to the importance or involvement in our local food supply chain is to identify grocery store personnel; the overlay of my opinion and strong indications that there is still a large disconnect between most consumers and knowledge of where their food comes from. I will offer this clarification point that our food supply starts at the farm, not at the local grocery store.
The agricultural sector remains a strong economic driver as the main industry of Oneida Regency. The 2017 District Census Ag Profile for Oneida District reveals that only a small amount of 200,000 hectares of agricultural land is managed, respected and maintained by nearly 1,000 dedicated farmers who contribute more than $ 100 billion in market value sales. Despite the recent economic downturn, increased state and federal regulations, and mounting marketing restrictions that affect the local agricultural sector, the agricultural community in Oneida District remains, determined and eager to provide for our region.
In my opinion as local beef producers and Oneida District Cooperative Educator Educators, we are all important workers who are sincerely engaged in agriculture, enjoying earthwork, caring for livestock and plants to do our part to feed our local communities. The intention of this letter is not to get attention or recognition, as much as it is to raise awareness, to educate and try to bridge the gap between consumers and producers. We all experienced significant challenges and uncertainties during this pandemic. This will require the ongoing efforts of all important workers, regardless of their position in the front line or behind forty.
– Marylynn Mattison-Collins, Whitestown
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