Play a part

You, I and 153 other people ate today because of one American farmer. An increase of 800 percent in the past 73 years. In 1940, each farmer produced enough food to feed 19 people.

We officially recognize our farmers and all they do to make our lives better during Agriculture Week, March 17 to 23. Farmers not only produce food, fiber and fuel, they contribute to a strong economy. In fact, the total impact of agriculture and agribusinesses account for 20 percent of the state's economy, according to Kansas Inc.

The role of farmers will become even more critical with the exploding world population. We reached 7 billion people in 2011. The United Nations forecasts that world population will reach 9 billion by 2050 -- and that farmers will have to produce 70 percent more food than they do today.

Agriculture is this nation's No. 1 export and vitally important in sustaining a healthy economy.

And it's not just the farmer who makes our food possible. The entire agriculture industry, all the way to the grocery store, are vital links in a chain that brings food to every citizen -- and millions of people abroad.

Farms of every size are important today, regardless of whether they are feeding just their families or the world.

Here's an interesting fact from USDA numbers released on Feb. 19: 25 percent of farms have an average of 55 acres and sales of less than $2,500.

Agriculture week is a good time to reflect -- and be grateful for -- American agriculture. This marks a nationwide effort to tell the true story of American agriculture and remind citizens that agriculture is a part of all of us.

Be part of America's agriculture, if even just for one day. Take a drive in the country with your family. There's no prettier green than winter wheat fields waking from winter dormancy. And wave if you see a farmer. I guarantee they'll wave back.

Happy Agriculture Week.

Lesley Schmidt, second vice president, Kansas Agri-Women