At first, the report seems awfully funny: A U.S. Dairy survey of American adults shows that 7 percent — about 16 million people — believe brown cows produce chocolate milk.
So where does strawberry milk come from, pink cows? Ba dum dum.
But the punchline isn’t so funny after you hear some farmers talk about the things they’ve heard come out of the mouths of city slickers and suburbanites.
Some people don’t know potatoes come from the ground. Or that a pickle is really a cucumber. And don’t get us started on whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable.
Consider this from the New York Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Ammerman, who has fielded calls from people wanting to know where to go apple picking — in January.
It’s enough to make a farmer shake his or her head. “If you don’t know, you don’t know,” Ammerman said.
And clearly, too many people don’t know the source of their dinnertime meals.
Fortunately, the fruits of ongoing local efforts informing folks of not only where their food comes from, but the importance of agriculture to the community’s economy, are paying off.
The town of Canandaigua, for one, has set the preservation of its prime agricultural soils as a major goal, in part because of development pressure on these fields of green — farms in Ontario County generated $180 million in sales, according to 2012 figures. Just this year, steps to preserve forever the nearly 600-acre Catalpa Farm on Route 332, within the town’s recently instituted Padelford Brook Greenway farmland protection program, have been taken.
The Farm Bureau also encourages farmers to be more vocal about who they are and what they do — and in the case of organic farmers, why they do it that way.
Millennials take a bad rap for a lot of things, but there are encouraging signs that young people today are embracing the local food movement. Witness the popularity of Finger Lakes wines, the proliferation of craft breweries such as Young Lion Brewing Co., which opened Thursday in the City of Canandaigua, and Twisted Rail Brewing Co., which will be expanding into the city of Geneva.
The Farm Bureau doesn’t so much as lobby for more agriculture education in school districts but strongly encourages it, Ammerman said.
“We just want it to be an option for students,” Ammerman said. “Certainly, it’s not for everybody.”
While on the learning front, wouldn’t it be nice in a county that runs on agriculture if there were an agriculture museum, dedicated to displays of old and new farm equipment, perhaps demonstrations, and certainly information on the future of farming? Such an operation could sow the seeds of a growing interest in agriculture for a young child, if not turning a child into working or owning a farm.
But as the dairy survey sadly points out, clearly more needs to be done, and the good works of farmers and those who promote their products must continue.
Knowing where milk and meat and fruits and vegetables come from helps promote, protect and preserve a way of life that helped build the communities we know today, and we hope to toast sweet future successes tomorrow — with a glass of chocolate milk.