How much do you know about where the food on your Thanksgiving table comes from?  This is a great time to consider those who produce the food on our overflowing plates, particularly in a year that has seen food prices increase 6% according to the Economic Research Service.

Celebrating a productive harvest was at the center of the table on the first Thanksgiving.  While that tradition has changed with 98.5% of Americans not in food production, farmers should be appreciated as they protect our national security by putting food on plates not only at Thanksgiving – but every meal each day.  Marketing misinformation has likely made you more familiar in with genes gone wild, organics, farm animal mistreatment and multi-million dollar activist organizations than with the hard-working people who provide you with the potatoes, turkeys and corn.

When was the last time you were on a farm? If you have not been in the last five years, I encourage you to find a modern farmer and visit their business. Contact your state Farm Bureau office, local Chamber, or department of ag to locate a farm. USDA shows that 98% of farms are still family-owned. It may be difficult to understand that farms of today are not the idyllic settings of yesterday and the country’s low food prices have driven farms to become larger or niched.  However, does your local hardware or grocery story look the same as it did 50 years ago?


Consider the bigger picture – meeting the basic needs of a growing human population.  It’s easy for people unfamiliar with world food needs to complain about dust from a field, animal odors, slow moving vehicles on busy roads, lights in fields at night and pesticides/hormones/antibiotics.  Technology and continuing advances in food production are necessary to nourish a world population expected to double by 2050.   

My travels give me a firsthand look at the starvation and impoverished circumstances of millions around the world, who we have a responsibility to help.  Our country speaks volumes about assisting those less fortunate, but in reality – individual choices give little consideration to those who are literally dying for a portion from our Thanksgiving plate.  True global sustainability combines ethics, economics and accountability on how to feed the world in a responsible manner – and not just in the U.S. or your local neighborhood.


Food production involves respect for the land, business integrity, ethical animal treatment, extensive understanding of science and risk management that Wall Street could learn from, such as 30-60% increase in costs to raise food in the last year alone. Traits that serve farmers well, including an independent nature and modesty, don’t necessarily stand up to the spin doctors’ tales of food versus. fuel, dismal animal abuse and deepening pockets of farmers.  I’m not claiming food production is perfect, but I encourage you to really educate yourself about the food production behind your over laden Thanksgiving table. If you can’t get to a farm, at least consider that there are two sides of the claims made by activists groups such as Greenpeace, Humane Society of the U.S., Physicians Committee for Responsible, Farm Sanctuary, PETA or others who paint modern food producers in negative light to advance their agendas.  Agriculture has become a target as the business has evolved to continue serving the people of the world.


I’m not from a major agribusiness, sponsored by any organization or an elected official. I am a concerned citizen and small business owner who believes in American food production.   I believe people in food production need to communicate more with consumers, but they can’t do it alone. I’m asking you to employ critical thinking skills and not let one-sided media reports or activist agendas make your decisions.  Your personal choices will impact how food is raised in this country – and how much you pay for it.  After all, what will our Thanksgiving look like when food production is either driven to other countries or your food prices dramatically increase because of activist rhetoric defeating family businesses? 


Michele Payn-Knoper, Principal of Cause Matters Corp., speaks around the world to help build a connection between the farm gate and consumer plate.  She has worked with more than 25 countries and trained thousands of people involved in food production, nutrition and not-for-profit arenas.  See or call 765.427.4426 for more information.  Copyright 2008 – all rights reserved.