Thanksgiving Day gives us pause to consider our many blessings. Our families, our homes and our good health are immeasurable gifts we have been fortunate to receive. The liberty we enjoy as citizens of this great nation continues to be a cherished part of our daily experience. Most of us have the privilege of an exceptional standard of living compared to numerous other societies around the world.
Offering thanks seems like an obvious, immediate response for all that we have — for all that we hold dear.
Europeans did not invent the model for Thanksgiving Day in the New World. Neither the Pilgrims in New England nor the Spanish settlers at St. Augustine could make the claim. Before Columbus ever thought about a voyage of discovery, native people in Florida had periodically observed their own ways of giving thanks. Native expressions of thanksgiving routinely involved food and communal activities, guided by religious belief.
Despite their differences, these diverse societies shared a desire to acknowledge their appreciation of the bounty provided by the natural world around them. And they understood that the only way to draw a reliable sustenance from it for large groups of human beings was by engaging in various forms of agriculture. Like us, they recognized that ample food to support their families was within reach by cultivating crops and raising animals.
This result could be achieved only by hard work. Later generations of farmers and ranchers in Florida added exceptional productivity and adaptability to the list of skills applied to food and fiber production. I see these same attributes among the men and women who live and work on our farm operations today.
Our safe, abundant and affordable food supply is the product of their labors. Their dedication in the face of harsh weather conditions, pests, diseases, cheap (and often inferior) foreign imports, comparatively intense governmental regulation and market fluctuations is the foundation of our quality of life.
Farms and ranchers offer more than food, fiber and renewable fuels. They contribute to our quality of life by providing green space, fresh water recharge areas and the control of invasive species. Responsible management of natural resources by agricultural producers gives us the prospect of supporting our civilization into the indefinite future. The very presence of viable farm operations limits the transformation of open land into concrete and asphalt.
In addition, rural residents place fewer demands upon public services than urban populations, thereby adding to the public treasury. According to multiple studies of property taxes and public services in Florida counties, rural people receive less than one dollar's service in police and fire protection for every dollar in tax they pay. Urban populations, on the other hand, receive assistance from these public agencies worth far more than what they contribute.
Agricultural operations also function as a major component of our state economy. According to researchers at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the agricultural sector here contributes an economic impact of more than $100 billion each year. It remains a bedrock of economic activity even when tourism, construction and the service industries collapse into recession.
Every Floridian is connected to agriculture, regardless of residence, career or interest. We are all consumers. Our purchases of farm products provide us with nutrition as well as a range of items that enrich our lives. Those same purchases enable farm families to continue making a living, giving our society the tangible rewards of their presence.
I hope you will remember all that agriculture means to us on this Thanksgiving Day. And I especially urge you to remember the good people who make it so successful. Their handiwork is a fundamental reason why we have a standard of living most previous generations of Floridians could scarcely imagine.
John Hoblick, president of the Florida Farm Bureau, can be reached by e-mail at: [email protected]