Agriculture does more than provide food and fiber for the world; it also helps maintain vibrant rural communities. In Wisconsin, it accounts for about 60 million dollars in sales each year, and rural communities need this agricultural base to thrive. Without it, the tax base would be unable to support activities essential to county and local government—school initiatives, road and park maintenance, and many of the services we take for granted would no longer be possible in these areas. Employment in rural communities is also dependent on a thriving agricultural economy. In the Central Sands region (a seven county area in central Wisconsin where potatoes and vegetables are primarily grown), over 17% of the jobs are derived from agricultural production, and over 100 million dollars in agricultural revenues are provided to local and state governments. Although rural landscapes are appreciated by everyone, 80% of the rural land is privately owned. The green spaces, forests, wetlands, open landscapes, and other countryside features that we all treasure are maintained by generations of farmers who manage the natural resources, provide clean water and air, wildlife habitat, and other ecological benefits both on-farm and for the surrounding community.
The primary role of agriculture, however, is to provide food security for our society by maintaining a safe, high-quality, affordable, and consistent food supply. To meet the food needs of a rapidly increasing global population, it is estimated that we must double worldwide crop production between now and 2050. Achieving this goal, continuing to foster vibrant rural communities, and protect the natural resources that we all depend on is a challenge that is being embraced by the farmers of the Central Sands region. It is very important for all citizens to take the time to stop and appreciate the beauty of the mosaic of crops and natural areas interspersed with vibrant small town communities and remember how important farmers are in both making this all possible and providing us with nutritious food for our families.