A slogan that is growing into a movement is making its way around agriculture in California and throughout the country, and its four word message may have the potential to focus political attention on some needed reforms to benefit farming. Urban residents are enjoying being a part of it.
“My job depends on ag” in bright green letters displayed in windows, on vehicles, buildings and in hundreds of unexpected locations, is causing people in thousands of occupations to realize that it is because of agriculture that their jobs exist. Everybody, from a cowboy in a feedlot to a broker handling shares of potato stocks can chuckle at the admission and inwardly express pride.
The strength and truth of the slogan became apparent when an expansive aerial photo was taken about three years ago near Firebaugh showing the number of people (250) and pieces of equipment (50) required to produce the alfalfa crop growing there. It had extended meaning for farm people who understand that alfalfa is a crop that demands fewer workers and less equipment than many other crops.
The photo from Firebaugh became basis for a series of agriculture-oriented television programs broadcast on public television by Fresno’s KVPT. They portrayed the details and planning required for producing, harvesting and distributing different crops common to California’s Central Valley. They offered pictorial justification for both human and mechanical involvement in crop production, and provided basis for the pride and joy expressed by those whose jobs depend on agriculture.
Growth of the “My Job Depends on Ag” movement was celebrated at a gala in early October in a roomy hangar building at the Fresno-Yosemite Airport. Besides an evening of music, dancing, games and celebration it doubled as a fundraising event for purchasing more MJDA decals and extending the movement further.
Among some of the volunteers supporting the movement is the possibility that it may become a worldwide rallying cry for food producers and handlers everywhere. That may involve replacing the backdrop of an outlined California with something more widely recognizable akin to traffic signs and symbols accepted and recognized around the world.
Gaining worldwide recognition is an exciting possibility, but attracting support for and maintaining recognition in California for an industry-wide movement is a substantial undertaking in itself. It has been proposed and structured on previous occasions, always faltering and failing to become permanent, even after noteworthy achievements.
Support by a determined agricultural industry focused attention in the 1950s and ‘60s on retention of the well-recognized bracero program for importing agricultural workers. It was not enough to withstand overwhelming political pressure that ended the program. Now politicians are striving to restore the benefits of the program in another context called H2-A.
Support for an agriculture-wide California program of public relations to recognize the strategic value of farming within the state gained notable support in the1960s, but faltered when it seemed necessary to focus its attention on countering the destructive and negative aspects of the farm labor unionization effort. The well-respected Council of California Growers disbanded in the early ‘70s, and no industry-wide organization has risen to replace it.
Some respected organizations in California agriculture always seem reluctant to allow another organization or unit of the industry to speak for their members, even in the context of industry-wide goodwill and reputation. “My Job Depends on Ag” might be able to overcome that built-in resistance as it moves forward to simply and tastefully expand the platform of pride and performance established by California’s agricultural industry and its people.