When it comes to food, Americans have never had it so good.
As harvest crews take to Kansas fields to cut an estimated 394 million bushels of wheat, itís a good time to marvel at the scope and impact of American agriculture.
Start with breakfast. Will it be toast, cereal and milk, a smoothie, pastries or a fast-food stop? Then consider options for lunch Ė a hamburger, maybe Mexican, or something lighter like a salad. There are afternoon snacks, too, before beginning to think about an overwhelming selection of meats, pasta, potatoes, vegetables, pizza and sandwiches from which you can choose your dinner.
Itís all part of a food system that feeds Americans and makes the world a safer place.
Kansas farmers, ranchers and dairies play a big role in the effort.
Most of what you hear these days is how poor the American diet is. Too much fat. Too much salt. Too much of too much.
And of course there are fads. Stay away from gluten. Avoid carbs. Treat preservatives and food coloring as if they were toxins.
All of which helps to show how ample and varied our food supplies are. No one ever has had so many choices. And on average, we spend less of our income on food than any other developed nation on the planet.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average U.S. family spends less than 10 percent of its income on food. More than half of that is for food purchased and eaten outside the home, such as restaurant meals, coffee shops and convenience store snacks.
So bountiful is the nationís food supply that itís hard to travel more than a few blocks down any commercial street without finding food. And if thatís not enough, food trucks will bring the tacos, ice cream and other goodies to you.
Not only are we able to feed ourselves anytime day or night, but we also provide food and know-how to other countries.
On the know-how side, we provide scientific and technical expertise abroad. And at home, colleges such as Kansas State and Fort Hays provide international students with the ag-related educations they need to improve themselves and their countries. At the same time, the tuition and other money international students spend help U.S. communities.
By providing food and international assistance, the United States fosters peace abroad. Sufficient and reliable food supplies are vital to the development of sustainable and stable economies.
Itís not just a matter of charity. U.S. farmers grow so much more than Americans can consume that export markets are financially important, and not just on the farm.
So while the strength of the U.S. dollar, economic growth in developing nations and international trade deals may seem irrelevant to Kansans, such issues help determine both the amount of farm products that other countries buy from us and the prices farmers and ranchers get for their products.
In turn, commodity prices affect everything from local car sales to property tax rates for Kansans.
Itís a complicated system, one that most of us gratefully can take for granted.
The ability of U.S. farmers to grow more and more food on less and less land means Americans have economical and varied options.
And if we make bad choices, thatís hardly something for which we should blame farmers, fast-food restaurants or the government.
Neither should we believe those who say plentiful and cheap food has come at the expense of food safety. Your food is safer than ever before.
True, we hear more about outbreaks of food-borne illness and contamination. Thatís because farms, ag-related businesses and government agencies are spending record amounts of resources to test and monitor food supplies.
In the past, few outbreaks were noted by anyone other than the person or family who became ill, and they might not have known it was food that made them sick. Today, even the possibility of contamination can produce an immediate alert through all kinds of media.
Because food is safe, plentiful and relatively cheap, we donít think about it much.
The effort, innovation and collaboration involved, though, make for an amazing achievement, and it starts in our own backyard.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers in California, Indiana, New York and across Kansas.