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Farming is so important

The Harlem Valley has a rich farming history. It’s been spoken about by generations of farmers, and written about by this newspaper and others. This week, The Millerton News takes a long look at a number of agricultural topics, ranging from the difficulty of keeping an auction barn in operation (with the history of the Luther Auction Ring in Wassaic) to the wonders of a community pulling together to rebuild after a devastating fire (with an update of the Millerhurst Farm in Ancramdale) to a documentary focused on sustainable farming (with the screening of “The Biggest Little Farm” at The Moviehouse in Millerton). All of these are evidence of a community interested in agriculture and supportive of farmers and others in agricultural industries. 

Fast forward to the weekend of Oct. 11 and 12, a Friday and Saturday. That’s when the Pine Plains FFA will have its fall festival and parade — a celebration of FFA students, the FFA mission and the farming community. It’s a tradition that goes far back. The school district used to hold the festival a good number of years ago. Then it discontinued doing so. Then, it brought it back, much to the pleasure of everyone. 

The FFA Fall Agricultural Festival has exhibits, booths, livestock judging, livestock classes, dairy showmanship, tractor pulls, flower shows, pet shows and more, not to mention the much beloved annual parade. Again, the entire community shows its support at the FFA fair — from Pine Plains and beyond — and it impresses upon us all how tied the region is to its farming roots. It strives to promote all things agriculture and it shows off the school district’s instructional programs in ag science. The lessons taught at that festival, and through the Pine Plains FFA at Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School, are really important to those who want to work in the ag field and also to those who want to gain a deeper understanding of what goes into putting food on our plate, and so much more.

Now, farming is not always the safest profession. So said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue this month when speaking of National Farm Safety and Health Week, which ran the week of Sept. 15 through Sept. 21. The week stressed the importance of prioritizing safety on the farm and rural roadways of America. According to Purdue, in 2017, 518 workers in ag and related industries died from a work-related injury — “making agriculture one of the most dangerous professions in the United States.”

It’s a good reminder to be watchful of farm workers when out and about. Watch out for them when driving along our country roads. Respect the space they need to grow our food, and respect them for doing such vital work.

And remember, too, to make the most of living in this gorgeous part of the state. Get out there and explore! Stop by our farmers markets to see what the “buy local” buzz is about. Buy local in our supermarkets, at our stores and in our restaurants. There are so many places that allow you to do so in our neck of the woods.

Bottom line: Any support you can show to farmers or others in the agricultural industries helps. From taking part in farm-related community events to increasing awareness of farmers’ needs to buying anything and everything from local farms — it all assists in creating a vibrant community — one that is proud to call farmers, neighbors.