LITTLE VALLEY - "Who grew my soup?" It is an odd question, but one that should make the reader of the book with that title stop in their tracks to consider the source of their food, or so Phyllis Couture, a member of Farm Bureau from West Valley, would hope.
As she read the first 11 pages of the book to Cattaraugus County legislators, Wednesday afternoon, her point about the importance of farmers and food origins was falling on the lawmakers' ears. They were hearing part of a book that all second and third-graders in the county would be hearing soon.
"So, who does grow that soup, raises those steaks, produces that milk?" she asked the legislative body. "As a rural community, we know the answer: our farmers."
The problem is, not everyone is aware, she said. Farm and ranch families comprise only about 2 percent of the population of the United States.
Today, each one of those farmers must produce enough food for 154 people, according to Couture. That number is up from the 19 that each farmer had to feed in 1940. The numbers are not expected to decrease any time soon. In fact, she said projections have the rate of global population growth to hit 2.3 billion by 2050.
"That means production will have to increase by 70 percent," she said.
As that number needs to grow, the number of farmers is falling. From 1940, she said, the number of farmers in the United States has fallen by 66 percent. The increase experienced has been largely due to better technique and technology in farming.
One of the problems faced in the agricultural realm is that it is not just food that is produced. The economic impact of farms reaches deeper than the dinner table.
"It is manufacturing in adhesives and lubricants. It is construction in lumber, paints and brushes," she said. "It is in health care in pharmaceuticals, ointments, latex gloves. It is personal-care products in soap and toothpaste. It is in sports in uniforms, baseball bats and shoes. It is in printing with paper and ink."
As she used her podium time in front of the Cattaraugus County Legislature, Couture said the Farm Bureau is there to help, not just the farmers, but also those that want to support the farmer.
She said those who are interested in helping out can contact their local Farm Bureau chapter.
"Remember," she said, holding up a bumper sticker, "No Farms, No Food. Or, as I recently saw, No Farms, No Beer. Think about it."