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Angie Roberts and Sammy McCorkle, both representing McDuffie County Farm Bureau talk about the significance of agriculture and the related industries during the observance of national Farm-City Week.

Just as the holiday season begins, the annual observance of Farm-City Week focuses attention on not just farmers who put food on the tables of America but also all the affiliated agribusiness.

According to Georgia Farm Bureau “Farm-City Week highlights the relationship between Georgia farmers and their partners in urban areas who prepare, transport, market and retail the food and fiber that farmers grow for consumers. Kiwanis International began Farm-City Week in 1955 to increase the understanding of the partnership between urban and rural residents.”

During most years, McDuffie County Farm Bureau holds an annual Farm-City Week dinner but the annual event has been cancelled during the pandemic in both 2020 and again this year. Sammy McCorkle, McDuffie County Farm Bureau president, and his daughter Angie Roberts, who serves as the promotion and education chair for McDuffie County Farm Bureau, each first hand have a grasp of the importance of agriculture in Georgia, and the nation.

“Farm-City Week celebrates not just the farmer but the partnerships that farmers have with people outside of what people traditionally think of as an agricultural sector — the truck drivers that get the agricultural products places, the industries that make it possible, the chefs that cook the food,” Roberts said. “It represents a partnership in all that goes into agricultural products.” “Everything we do relies on agriculture,” she added.

Roberts said there are not as many people now interested in going into traditional agriculture. At the same time, many of those older farmers are getting ready to retire.

“A lot of that is a lack of knowledge, or understanding what agriculture is. We have to make sure as people retire they get replaced,” Roberts explained. “Without people going into those fields and understanding the importance of them, then we’re going to suffer.”

“Agriculture has become a high-tech industry, not just a mule or an old tractor and a plow,” McCorkle said. “I grew up on a dairy farm and a chicken farm. We had 70 cows that we milked; you’d starve to death now with just 70 cows. You’ve got to have 300 or 400 cows to have enough volume to support or sustain your family and you go into debt with all of the high-tech equipment.”

He said it takes much more money now to get into farming. Plus, if the farm is passed from one generation to the next the young farmer will have to contend with inheritance tax implications, McCorkle said. With the high-tech nature of agriculture, a bright spot is that there are many varied jobs and career paths now.

“I think there are kind of two sides to that. It used to be that couple could just get out of school and farm. You can’t do that now,” she said. “However, there are a lot more opportunities now that people don’t thin about. You can be going into an agricultural field and it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be a farmer out plowing or raising animals.”

She talked of how last Wednesday the Youth Leadership group, a program of the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce, visited several farms in the county. As part of the trip around the county, the students visited McCorkle Nurseries. She said the students learned about the affiliated industries — truck drivers that deliver the plants and even engineers and people in manufacturing who design the containers that hold and keep the plants safe as they are being transported to a customer.

“In order to sustain yourself and make a living, you’ve got to be high tech. It’s almost industrial. Because if you’re going to run a dairy and are going to have high volume you’re going to have to invest in that high-dollar equipment. You’re going to have to hire a nutritionist. You’re going to have to have all of these things that many years back you wouldn’t have necessarily have to have, ” she said. “So there are a lot more opportunities for you to de involved in agriculture.”

McCorkle explained when he was a young boy in the 1950s about one out of every four Americans was a farmer. Now, he said that there is only about one farmer for every 100 Americans. With the increase in technology, he said you almost have to be a college graduate to go into farming, he added. Roberts, who works closely with local ag students, said some graduates from Thomson have pursued degrees in agricultural education. Some have worked internships with John Deere.

But, she points out how almost any career path a young person could choose can now be applied to a job in agriculture. Lawyers, bookkeepers, sales and business people, are all needed in the agricultural field in various capacities. The National Farm Bureau convention will be in January in Atlanta. They will bring two buses of attendees to McDuffie County to visit Hillcrest Farms and McCorkle Nurseries in Dearing.

“That tells you that we’ve got something in McDuffie County to be proud of with the high-technology,” McCorkle said.

The McCorkle family farm, Hillsboro Farm, was honored with a 2021 Centennial Family Farm Award last month in Perry. The award recognizes farms owned by members of the same family for 100 years or more. More than 582 farms have been recognized through the Georgia Centennial Farm Program since it began in 1993.