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Ag Day: Food Brings Everyone to the Table

Eli Mittermeyer takes home the top prize in this year’s Ag Day essay contest. Here’s a look at his winning words, plus the winning video, too.

Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer Senior Editor

March 24, 2020

4 Min Read
Eli Mittermeyer in front of the ocean
BIG FAMILY: Loraine, Ill., student Eli Mittermeyer writes in his winning essay, “Food certainly brings everyone to the table, from the grateful diners, to 22.8 million employees that depend on agriculture for a paycheck. Their efforts ensure that we are able to have a stable food supply.”

It’s National Ag Day! Celebrated annually since 1973, Ag Day will look a little different this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, says Jenny Pickett with the Agriculture Council of America, the organization that puts on Ag Day. 

Look for plenty of Ag Day activity online and on social media, instead of a day of celebration in Washington, D.C., that would typically be full of expert panels, congressional visits and gatherings centered on the industry that feeds America.

Essay and video contests are part of the annual events, open to high school students across the country. The 2020 winners were chosen based on the theme “Food Brings Everyone to the Table.” This year’s essay winner is Eli Mittermeyer, from Loraine, Ill. He’ll receive a $1,000 prize and the opportunity to attend next year’s Ag Day celebration in Washington, D.C.

“CHS has long supported rural youth education and leadership programs, and we are proud to give this year’s essay contest winners a platform that lets them share their ideas with a broader audience,” says Annette Degnan, CHS Inc. and Agriculture Council of America board member.

The Ag Day Essay Contest is sponsored by CHS Inc., the National Association of Farm Broadcasting and Farm Progress. Britt Bowersox, Swisher, Iowa, and Kaya Dorogi, Marlboro, Mass., each were merit winners, receiving $100 prizes.

Here’s Eli’s winning essay, “Food Brings Everyone to the Table”:

​“Pass the mashed potatoes, please.” When that heaping dish of fluffy goodness comes your way, you might think to thank the person passing it to you, or the person who prepared them. However, rarely does one consider all the people that brought that food your way.

The food we enjoy at our table exists because of the dedication of America’s farmers and ranchers. Our farmers embrace constantly evolving challenges and minimize environmental impacts while maximizing food production. They must embrace new technology while respecting old traditions and their business requires not only a significant financial investment, it requires an investment of blood, sweat and tears while battling frustrating working conditions, weather hardships, economic challenges, and more. Farmers do all this to provide us with bountiful and affordable food, so when we sit down to eat, the farmer who produced the food joins us, but that farmer joins more than just our family, as each U.S. farm feeds 166 people annually.

The farmers and ranchers who produce our food must work with countless agricultural providers and suppliers to provide solutions and technology that producers need to meet the challenges of feeding a growing global population. They also contribute to the significant impact agriculture has on our U.S. GDP, and the combination of agricultural, food, and related industries contributed over $1 trillion to our GDP in 2017.

These providers and suppliers also employ vast quantities of talented individuals such as scientists, engineers, and innumerable manufacturers to utilize the farmer’s product. Their areas of expertise vary greatly, from drone technology to chemistry, hydrology, and beyond. Their talents help minimize agriculture’s environmental impacts, and address the ever present challenges of feeding a global population. Due to this, the agriculture industry and its employees also join our farmers and producers at our table as our invisible guests.

We may not have intended to invite our legislators and government officials to our dinner table, but they also have a seat because of their impacts on our producers and our food supply. They are responsible for determining federal and state rules and regulations that affect everything from the environment to transportation. They develop our critically important trade policies with other countries, and establish our crop insurance rules and farm subsidy programs. These guests at the table can dramatically impact U.S. agriculture and its producers.

Food certainly brings everyone to the table, from the grateful diners, to 22.8 million employees that depend on agriculture for a paycheck. Their efforts ensure that we are able to have a stable food supply, and as such we should be more than grateful for whatever dish we are served at dinner.

Winning video

This year’s video essay winner is Samantha Gerges, of Mansfield, Texas. She also wins a $1,000 prize and the chance to attend next year’s Ag Day celebration.


About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Prairie Farmer Senior Editor, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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