Proclamation brings awareness to rural, urban teamwork in agriculture

Pictured is Fort Payne Mayor Larry Chesser signing the Farm-City Week proclamation.

Farm-City Week started Friday and will end on Nov. 28, Thanksgiving Day.

Farm-City Week was an initiative started by George David Aiken in 1941. Aiken was an American politician and horticulturist. He was a member of the Republican Party and was the 64th governor of Vermont from 1937 to 1941 before serving in the United States Senate for 34 years, from 1941 to 1975.

During that time, Farm-City Week became an annual presidential proclamation.

The national week was set aside by congress to express gratitude for the food that comes from the land, as well as the farmers and other people who work to get that food to dinner tables across the country.

Lesa Smith, chair of DeKalb County’s Farm-City Chapter, is on a mission to get DeKalb County municipalities to sign the Farm-City proclamation. Last week, Fort Payne Mayor Larry Chesser signed the proclamation to represent Fort Payne’s observation of the national week.

Smith said when she was asked to spread the word about Farm-City Week, she initially thought that people living in a rural area like DeKalb County would know where their food comes from, but she was wrong.

“I was told that this [Farm-City Week] was to teach people about where their food came from,” she said. “For around here, I thought that was kind of strange because I thought everyone around here would know where their food comes from. Well, I was wrong.”

Smith said she has taken initiative to bring education about Farm-City Week to county schools. She said most kids are hard pressed to give the right answer when asked where their food comes from.

“It is amazing at how many kids can’t tell you where their hamburger meat comes from,” she said. “They start by saying McDonald’s, then they’ll say it comes from the grocery store, but after that, they can’t tell you that it comes from a cow. They really don’t know where it comes from.”

Smith said she was shocked to learn that a lack of such knowledge existed in a rural area.

“I couldn’t hardly believe it,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that we have people here in DeKalb County that don’t know where their food comes from. But, educating people on that is a big part of what Farm-City Week is about.”

Smith said although many people do know where their food comes from, Farm-City Week is a time to remind those people that their meals should not be taken for granted.

“We’re blessed and we’re thankful, but some take their food for granted, and some do not,” she said. “With the way the droughts are and the way the winter is; we never know how long we are going to be able to produce food like we do.

“So it’s important for people to know how to get their food in case they need to provide for their family one day in case there is no food in the grocery store for them to buy.”

Smith said Farm-City Week is also set aside to recognize how the rural and the urban “work together.”

“Even though the farmers grow the food, we need the truck drivers to carry the food; we need the manufacturers to make the tractors and equipment to harvest the food, and we need the stores to sell the food,” she said. “It is not just the farmers who are in it, it’s how everyone works together to get it to our homes and tables to enjoy.”

Smith said this year’s theme is “Keep Alabama Growing.”

“With all of us working together, hopefully we can keep Alabama growing more food and better food for all.”

Smith said she wants local mayors to sign the proclamation so that the townspeople they govern for will become aware of the national week.

“I would like for it to be county-wide and I would like for the mayors to let their towns know that they signed it so the people of the town will wonder what it is about,” she said. “Hopefully, with the mayors signing it, the proclamation will bring awareness to the entire city.”

Smith said the proclamation is not limited to elected officials. She said any organization can sign on and help promote Farm-City Week.

Smith said if you are affiliated with a business, agricultural organization, producer, civic club, or are part of the county’s youth, you can play a part in bringing awareness to Farm-City Week.

For more information, visit the Alabama Farmers Federation website at http://alfafarmers.org/programs/for-schools/farm-city/.

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