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Like others throughout the nation, the Greeley farmers’ market offers the public access to fresh local produce and a variety of handcrafted items while providing a venue for small producers and makers to sell their wares. (Katy Kassian / Special to Agweek)

Tait and Kait: The 'other' faces of agriculture

Who are the faces of agriculture? When most people outside of the industry think of folks in Ag, their first thought is farmers and ranchers. But that's just the beginning. The faces of agriculture are many and as varied as can be imagined.

Yes, agriculture does include the stereotypes — the huge tracts of land and operations with hundreds-plus head of one kind of critter or another. But Ag also encompasses everything from farm stands to healthy eating to goat soap makers to 4-H kids and new-age homesteaders.

There are men and women selling at farmers markets and stands all across the nation. From Amish country to container gardens in cities, folks are growing everything from apples to zucchini and anything you can possibly imagine in between. There are big lots, little plots and things in pots being cultivated in fields, greenhouses, vertically, hydroponically, and the good old-fashioned right-in-the-ground way. These are also the faces of Ag.

Harner Farms produces goats’ milk soap and lotion, and sells quality registered goats.As are all the kids in 4-H, FFA and other Ag programs who are learning about caring for critters, showing them, and making items from things they raised. And the families who support these kids, their dreams, and all of their hard work. As they reach adulthood, these young people will use the knowledge they've gained as they return to the farm, start small holdings of their own, do research, become educators and/or advocates and encourage others. These are the faces of the future of Ag.

Families who homestead a few acres are also the faces of Ag. These folks actively live an Ag lifestyle, much the same as our grands and great-grands did back when having a backyard milk cow, chickens, rabbits or whatever was the norm, and "skills" were just something that came with the territory. These folks actively work farmers markets and small livestock sales selling their homegrown produce and critters to other like-minded folks who seek to eat better quality foods. They are cultivating gardens and educating others about how to be self-sufficient.

The makers, too, are the faces of Ag. Folks who apply their knowledge, skills and creativity to transform locally sourced Ag materials for other purposes — making goats' milk into soap and lotion, turning beeswax into candles and lip balm, crafting old barn wood into works of art, making quilts or bags from old flour sacks, and turning raw materials into baked goods and preserves. These are also the faces of Ag.

Our good friend and west-coast celebrity chef June Pagan is another of the faces of Ag. June has dedicated years to educating people about the healing power of natural foods, and she works directly with schools and other entities to source locally raised, organic foods. June, and others like her, are tirelessly raising awareness of where our food comes from. These advocates are also the faces of Ag.

Last, but not least, the "behind-the-scenes-ers" are the faces of Ag. The storytellers and the keepers of local history. People who are passionate about the industry, who write about Ag, talk about Ag, cheerlead for Ag. People who advocate for Ag by promoting cottage foods legislation, who educate and create awareness, who help others find resources for their Ag-based operations large and small, and who start small businesses that support Ag in one way or another. These are the faces of Ag.

Not all of the faces of Ag have farms or ranches or work on them. But all have respect and passion for the industry and the lifestyle and live it in the best way we know how.

So say it with us loud and proud — we ARE the faces of agriculture.