Celebrating 40 years, the Farm City Breakfast drew a crowd of nearly 500 people to Daviess County High School’s cafeteria Saturday morning.
Hosted by the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, the Farm City Breakfast brings city and county, agriculture and business together over a meal, following the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) week to celebrate the agriculture economy.
Local and state legislators were in attendance as well as Congressman Brett Guthrie, one of the champions of the five-year Farm Bill, which legalizes industrial hemp for Kentucky.
The event’s featured speaker, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, spoke to Daviess County agricultural stakeholders about the importance of their field across the Commonwealth and nation.
According to Quarles, Kentucky is home to 76,000 farms, almost all of which are family run, and average 164 acres in size. Quarles said while tobacco was once Kentucky’s prime crop in years past with 85,000 growers at one time, it has since died out, leaving fewer than 4,000 growing the plant, some of which are in Daviess County.
“Kentucky farmers had no choice but to diversify,” Quarles said.
And that’s exactly what they did, according to Quarles, bragging that Cracker Barrel restaurants nationwide serve Kentucky-raised sausage and McDonald’s biscuits are all made from Kentucky product.
Despite innovative farming technology and farmer resilience, Quarles said two main issues challenge Kentucky agriculture — depressed farm commodity prices and agricultural literacy.
Quarles referenced a national study that said 16 million Americans believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows, and 40 percent of children do not realize cheese is a dairy product and hamburger is made from beef.
Younger generations are not choosing farming as a career, presenting another challenge to Kentucky agriculture, according to Quarles, who said the average age of a Kentucky farmer is 62.
“We have got to do a better job of inspiring young people to pick agriculture,” said Quarles, pointing out that one in five jobs involve agriculture and it accounts for $7 trillion in the American economy.
Despite these challenges, however, Quarles said Daviess County is thriving. Of the estimated $5.7 billion of farm cash receipts, the Daviess County area accounts for $176 million, the best in the state.
“Daviess County blows out the competition,” Quarles said.