Despite healthy diversification, agriculture remains a vital component of the Mississippi economy. Worth billions, agribusiness in the state ranges from chickens to cotton to cattle to catfish, includes high-tech research and development and employs thousands.
“Most people don’t realize the impact of agriculture,” says Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Lester Spell. “When agriculture does well from an economic standpoint, the whole economy does well.”
The Department of Agriculture and Commerce’s Web site sums it up this way: “Mississippi’s fertile soil and temperate climate make it an ideal state for agriculture. Nurseries; greenhouses; farms producing sweet potatoes, watermelons and other fruits and vegetables; muscadine vineyards, pecan orchards, sod farms, pick-your-own farms, plus many other alternative farming operations contribute greatly to the revenue produced by Mississippi’s agriculture industry.”
Along with the very real and substantial economic contributions of Mississippi agriculture, there are also the mythical aspects to consider.
Many of us, whether we grew up on a farm or know the difference between a bushhog and a bovine, or what a soybean is anyway, still feel the pull of the land, of the past, of what is a hard way to make a living, but seemingly, more meaningful than what many of us spend the workday doing.
Understanding the role of agriculture in our state’s past — and present — and how it has helped shape the communities we live in and the people we are is important as Mississippians now compete in the so-called New Economy with the demands of the global marketplace which do not always respect our traditions and history.
We remain confident that the people of Mississippi will remember who they are and where they come from, and whether it’s assembling a brand new SUV or hauling a load of tomatoes, we can do it better than anybody — anyplace — in the world.