Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Salt of the Earth: Ag Day 2023


Salt of the earth. 

When I started thinking about what I wanted to write to observe National Agriculture Day today - March 21 - I remembered some photos I took during a drive through the mama cows and babies. On a couple of trips, I'd asked Randy to park the pickup near a tub containing salt blocks. My goal? To capture that lip-smacking reaction as the calves sampled the tasty treat. 

Do you know how hard it is to catch that split second of the tongue escaping the confines of the mouth for a quick slurp? Let's just say I had a lot of near misses on my camera roll.  

Case in point? This one:

Persistence is key in agriculture. In photography, too. And I don't think it's much of a stretch to call agricultural producers "the salt of the earth."

The phrase is from a portion of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5: 13: "You are the salt of the earth." I'd just heard the verses again a few weeks ago at church as part of the Bible reading,. It's always been one of my favorites.
Jesus meant that the common people he was addressing – fishermen, shepherds, laborers – were worthy and virtuous. He was alluding, not to the tang of salt, but to its value.
Two for one on this shot - both calves had their tongues out!  

In other parts of the Bible,  salt is used metaphorically to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification.
That sounds like America's agricultural producers to me. 
I learned more at World Wide Words:

Salt has always been one of the most prized commodities, essential both for life and for preserving food. Roman soldiers were paid an allowance to buy salt, the origin of our salary. A man worth his salt is efficient or capable. To eat salt with someone was to accept his hospitality and a person who did so was bound to look after his host’s interests. The Bible also speaks of a covenant of salt, one of holy and perpetual obligation. ...To Jesus, therefore, salt of the earth was a great compliment.

I've been writing these Ag Day blog posts since I began Kim's County Line in 2010, but this was the first time we aren't actively farming. I wasn't going to be working calves or riding a 4-wheeler to move cattle or performing some other task on our farm. 

But I kept thinking about the cattle and their attraction to the salt.  Just like we humans, the bovines seem to want to flavor their diets with a bit of salt. As a child, I remember going with my dad on salt block deliveries. A little residue from the salt cube was left behind on my fingertips, and I couldn't resist a secret taste. The cows also seem to crave the mineral in the cattle lots. I certainly prefer my food with a sprinkling of salt, too, even though my doctor would recommend I limit my sodium intake.

Being the "salt of the earth" is a worthy goal. This Ag Day 2023 is a good time to celebrate the American farmer. America's farmers are the world's most productive. Today, each U.S. farmer produces food and fiber for 168 people annually in the U.S. and abroad. This number was 19 people in 1940, 46 people in 1960, and 115 people in 1980. I can't think of many industries in which productivity has increased that much! 

And even though consumers often complain about the price of food, U.S. shoppers still pay much less of our disposable income on food each year, about 10 percent.

Information from Kansas Farm Bureau. Click on the link for a complete fact sheet about farmers and agriculture.

That's definitely not a reason to stick out your tongue - unless you're savoring a tasty slice of wheat bread made with Kansas wheat and slathered with butter made from Kansas dairy cattle ... or you're enjoying a perfectly-grilled Kansas steak ... or you're scrambling up eggs from a Kansas poultry house (with a sprinkle of salt)... the list goes on and on! 
Farmers receive just under 19¢ of every consumer dollar that is spent on food. The other 81¢ is spent on processing, packaging, marketing, transportation, distribution and retail costs of the food supply. 

There is something that might cause my tongue to stick out in aggravation: It seems consumers would much rather get their information about how their food is produced from someone who has never set foot on a farm or a ranch. They let restaurant public relations gurus define what is safe to eat. Yet it is America's farmers and ranchers who devote their daily lives to it.  
Farmers and ranchers are the original "environmentalists." The National Ag Day theme is "Growing a Climate for Tomorrow." Agricultural producers intentionally prevent soil erosion, preserve and restore wetlands, clean the air and water and enhance wildlife. Since 1982, the erosion rate on U.S. croplands has been reduced by more than 40 percent.

Farmers and ranchers truly are the salt of the earth. 

Kansas Farm Bureau has a fact sheet about farmers and agriculture. To see more facts about U.S. farmers, click HERE.



  1. Yes, Farmers are definitely 'the salt of the earth'!