Did you know that farmers grow crayons? It’s a fact among many other amazing facts about farming and ranching.

And although most of the soybeans grown in the United States go toward feeding livestock, they’re also used in the production of crayons, with 1 acre of soybeans producing 82,368 crayons.

Did you also know that the United States is home to 47 different breeds of sheep? And that 1 pound of wool can make 10 miles of yarn? Plus did you know that the core on the inside of a baseball is wrapped in 150 yards of wool yarn?

These are just some of the facts provided by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and a variety of industry and trade groups.

Also, do you know how many kernels make up a bushel of wheat? The answer is 1 million, which can then yield about 42 pounds of white flour, 60 pounds of whole wheat flour, 45 24-ounce boxes of wheat flake cereal and about 42 pounds of pasta.

Today more than 45 million acres of U.S. cropland is used to grow wheat. And some 40% of the world’s population works in agriculture, making it the largest employer on the planet.

Meanwhile, on average, a dairy cow produces 6.3 gallons of milk a day and 46,000 glasses of milk a year. And it takes 350 squirts to make a gallon of milk.

South Dakota farmers grow about 975 million pounds of sunflowers, followed by North Dakota with 739 million pounds. About 217,000 metric tons of sunflower seed oil is consumed in the United States each year.

With over 45 million acres of farmland, Nebraska has the highest percentage of land dedicated to farming in America. The rest of the top five states, in order, are South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas and Iowa.

Those are fun facts. But here are some not so fun facts.

Only two in five small farmers in the United States turn a profit each year, about two-thirds work another job and slightly more than half of U.S. farms are very small.

Farm and ranch families now make up less than 2% of the U.S. population. That’s down from 70% in 1840. That dramatic shift in America’s workforce translates into a population knowing very little about where its food comes from.

Today over 600,000 farms receive most of their income from cattle production. There were roughly 45 million cows in the U.S. in 1975; by 2014, that number fell to 29 million.

In 1935, the number of farms peaked at almost 7 million. By 2019, that number had dropped to about 2.02 million.

In March 2020, farm bankruptcies jumped by 23%. And in the 12-month period ending June 30, 2020, 580 American farmers filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy protection. Issues during our recent pandemic included everything from breakdowns in the supply chain to the closures of processing plants.

And yet, farmers and ranchers around the world will have to produce about 70% more food than they do now in order to meet demands by the year 2050, because, at that point, the global population is expected to increase by 2.2 billion.

You see, farming, ranching and available food is very important. Not just because it fills your belly. But because restricted food supplies means restricted freedoms.


Kevin Holten is a columnist and executive producer of “Special Cowboy Moments” on RFD-TV.