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November is here; Good works & thankful hearts needed

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As November unfolds, it’s the perfect time to practice an attitude of gratitude. Find ways to represent agriculture and strengthen your community this month.

As we kick off the month of November, it is truly crazy to me to think that 2021 is nearly over.

It won’t be long until we are carving the turkey at Thanksgiving, roasting the prime rib at Christmas, and clinking champagne glasses to celebrate the start of a new year.

Yes, the days and the weeks seem to be moving fast, but this month, our family is purposefully slowing down and intentionally carving out time to focus on what matters most.

We want to teach our kids to have an attitude of gratitude, and when we look around the country and see so many folks who have lost their homes, their jobs, and even more this past year, I can’t help but appreciate the blessings I do have in my life.

A healthy family. A warm roof over my head. Food in my freezer and pantry. Loved ones who care. A fulfilling job that helps me pay my bills. And pastures full of cattle that I truly enjoy working with each day.

Reflecting on these blessings, the kids and I have started the tradition of writing on a pumpkin each day throughout November the things we are thankful for. It’s been fun for us to do it each year, and it’s a good reminder that although we all have troubles and tribulations in our lives, we can always find something to be grateful for.

Yet, it can be hard to have an appreciative heart when things are tough, right? It’s so easy to focus on daily stresses, long to-do lists, work projects and obligations, and the other trials of life that come up each day.

But a little perspective can go a long ways.

Each day, I see new headlines reporting on rising fuel and food prices, and I know every day Americans are hurting. I see it myself — my dollar just doesn’t go as far as it used to, and the pinch in the pocketbook is real.

In a recent article published in South Dakota’s The Brookings Register, “Beef and veal prices were almost 10% higher in 2021 compared with 2020, while pork prices at the retail level jumped by 6.3% and poultry rose by 5.6% during that time period. Meat prices overall jumped almost 16% from 2019 to 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and experts are predicting meat prices will increase as much as 6% more by the end of 2021.”

What’s more, Feeding America predicts that, “one in six children in South Dakota will face food insecurity in 2021, an increase over the prior year. In August 2021, about 34,000 households in South Dakota qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. Those households are home to about 35,000 children under 18, according to state data.”

The USDA reports, “Food spending rises in families as income rises, but at a slower rate than the rise in income. For families with the lowest 20% of gross incomes in the United States, spending on food averages $4,400 a year, making up 36% of their income.

“For comparison, families in the second-lowest 20% of average incomes spent $5,500 on food in 2019, which consumed only 18% of their income. Meanwhile, families in the top 20% of average incomes in the U.S. spent $14,000 on food in 2019, making up only 8% of their income.”

With this in mind, I can’t help but have such empathy and concern for Americans who are struggling to make ends meat and put food on the table during this season. If we are shaping up for a long, dark winter, then we need to be mindful of what’s going on in our communities and seek to help those who might be food insecure during the holiday season and beyond.

That’s where agriculture can truly shine. We can donate to food pantries. We can participate in weekend snack pack programs for vulnerable kids in our schools. We can volunteer at a soup kitchen. Or take a pan of bars or a casserole to the elderly who are shut in and alone.

There are many things that can be done, and I know the beef community can lead the way in doing our part to make our communities stronger while producing steaks and burgers that people will love. Let’s make a difference this November, and show the world what the heart of rural America truly looks like!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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