National Farmer’s Day, October 12, is a day to honor hardworking farmers throughout America’s history. Only 2% of us feed and sustain the rest of us! Take a moment to learn more—and discover little ways to show farmers appreciation and gratitude.
What Is National Farmer’s Day?
This is a day to honor and thank all of the hardworking farmers and ranchers who plow, sow, grow, and harvest to feed our nation. We especially rely on farmers to get fresh food on our tables during these uncertain times. Let’s pay tribute to the men, women, and families who put food in the grocery stores and on our tables every day.
Who is the modern farmer? Every 5 years, the United States Department of Agriculture conducts a census of U.S. farmers.
- While the latest census data shows that the majority of farmers are older (average age: 58+), there are also more young men, women, and minority farmers than ever before.
- You may be surprised to learn that 97.1% of farms in America are family farms—family-owned and family-operated.
We need farmers of the future to plant, feed, raise, and harvest all of the food that keeps our citizens fed.
While only 2% of our population are farmers, farmers’ contribution to the economy extends well beyond the food they grow for us to eat. In 2019, 22.2 million full- and part-time jobs were related to the agricultural and food sectors—10.9% of total U.S. employment.
Farmers keep many communities alive including
- trucking, railroads, and transportation
- clothing, textiles, and leather goods
- grocery stores, food services, eating and drinking places
- food and beverage manufacturing
- forestry and fisheries
Farming and Harvest Traditions
October 12 is a fitting day for National Farmer’s Day since it’s near the end of harvesttime. Today and through the years, there have been a variety of festivities and ways to celebrate the harvest—and not all of them are on the 12th.
- For example, there is a town in Louisiana which holds an Old Farmer’s Day festival on October 21 and 22 to honor harvest and farming customs from before mechanization—from sheep shearing to blacksmithing to biscuit making!
- Some New England towns still celebrate “Harvest Home” suppers or festivals. Traditionally, this was a way to celebrate the harvest and give thanks for the bounty of the fields and orchards.
Many traditions connected to “bringing in the harvest” date back to England, Ireland, and Scotland.
- Ever heard of Lammas Day (August 1)? This day marked the beginning of the harvest and especially celebrated the first wheat crop. The word “lammas” comes from the Old English hlaf, “loaf,” and maesse, “mass” or “feast.” Learn more. Much lore is associated with this day, including this proverb, “After Lammas Day, corn ripens as much by night as by day.”
“Harvest Home” was an ancient English harvest festival that was celebrated on the last day of harvest in late September by singing, shouting, and decorating the village with boughs. The very last sheaf of corn, which representsed the spirit of the field, was saved and woven into a “corn dolly” to be planted the following spring.
Corn dollies, a harvest tradition. In ancient times, it was believed that the spirit of the corn lived among the crop.
- Michaelmas (September 20) was a customary day to harvest crops and sell the surplus. Traders would march their geese to the famous Nottingham (England) market to be sold just in time for the Michaelmas celebrations that marked the end of harvest. According to records, some 20,000 geese would be seen gandering through town. Everyone ate goose at Michaelmas to bring prosperity, and many farmers included “a goose fit for the lord’s dinner” with their rent payments. Today, the “Nottingham Goose Fair” is Europe’s oldest and largest traveling fair. Learn more about Michaelmas.
How to Support Your Local Farmer
Supporting your local farmer is easy! Here are a few ideas:
- Buy fruits and vegetables from a farmers’ markets. Many small farms sell directly to the consumer through farmers’ markets. You’ll meet the local farmers who grew your food, learn about their farming practices, and buy the freshest produce, eggs, and meat. Check out this farmers’ markets directory.
- Visit pick-your-own farms. They’ll supply everything from berries to vegetables to apples to pumpkins. There are you-pick-flower farms in many towns. Here’s a web site which lists the pick-your-own farmers in your area.
- Consider investing in a CSA farm share next year (CSA stands for “community-supported agriculture”). Local farmers will give you a basket of freshly-picked food every week for a true farm-to-table experience. Find a local CSA.
- Keep your eyes and ears out for local small-town festivals. From persimmon festivals to pawpaw festivals to garlic festivals, you’re supporting farming communities.
Miles Hooper (with his son) from Ayers Brook Goat Dairy in Randolph, Vermont. Credit: Chip Natvig
Want to meet some of today’s farmers? If you love the land, here are stories, inspirations, and little lessons from five farmers who grow our food!