Spread across more than 2 million sq. ft. of San Joaquin Valley soil in Tulare, CA, were displays showing the latest crop and machinery technology, some of which would seem to be straight out of a science fiction novel. Yet, to some Americans who buy bagged salads and fresh tomatoes at their local grocery stores, the technology used on farms hasn't moved much beyond Old McDonald and his walking plow. Farms, it would seem, are good only for growing subdivisions.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani attended the first day of the 40th annual World Ag Expo, held in Tulare during February 13-15. He admitted to the audience at the event's opening ceremony that being mayor of New York City for eight years didn't make him an expert in farming. What it did help him to understand, he said, was how much that city and the rest of the country depends on agriculture: "You feed us and take care of us. What you learn about ag when you are the mayor of America's largest city is how much we depend on each other in America."
Raising crops isn't the only aspect of the farm industry that is important to the United States. Building the machinery that is used on the farms is as well. A recent study undertaken by the Assoc. of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assoc. (FEMA) and North American Equipment Dealers Assoc. (NAEDA), found that the agricultural equipment industry generates more than $82 billion in economic activity and is responsible for 250,000 jobs in the United States.
Once my flight from Wisconsin landed in California, it took a good hour for the luggage to travel from the airplane to the carousel inside the Oakland airport. There was time for small talk. Someone asked me where I'd traveled from and where I was bound. I was going to a big farm show a few hours south of the city, I told her.
She was surprised by my destination. She wouldn't have guessed agriculture would have a show at all, especially a big one that I would travel from Wisconsin to attend. It's not the first time I've run into someone who thinks grocery stores have made farming obsolete. It's a disconnect that's both sad and scary. —Chad Elmore