With Memorial Day approaching this weekend, most people are planning for their three-day holiday. But while families plot BBQs, friends plan for a night of drinks, and veterans pay their respects to their fallen friends, agricultural producers have different concerns rolling through their minds.

While ag workers and producers will celebrate Memorial Day too, it's also about serving the country.  It's one of the most important days of the year for many farmers, ranchers, and producers in the United States. Here's five reasons why.

1. Many in agriculture are tied to military families.

As of 2017, 11% of active service members or veterans of the U.S. military are producers - much higher than the 6.9% of the average U.S. population. The U.S. Census Bureau also reports that 17% of farms have a worker who has served or is serving in the military.

This isn't just a case of farmers leaving their land to serve the country; it's also about servicemen and servicewomen who return and take up farming. Grant Weber of Vets on the Farm told AgDaily why vets make great farmers:

Mission driven, cradle to grave mentality, sacrificing for other people.


Butcher preparing meat

2. Memorial Day means a spike in meat sales, especially beef.

Across the U.S., over half of people celebrating the holiday plan on grilling, per a study by Numerator. It estimates 85% of consumers will buy meat. That means hot dogs, hamburgers, and even steaks.  WalletHub's estimate of meat sales for the 2024 Memorial Day holiday is at $1.3 billion US. And according to Womply, meat shops and butchers see a 23% increase in sales.

3. Produce is also a big seller for Memorial Day.

The above study from Numerator also indicates that 67% of people buying food for the holiday will buy produce. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and corn are likely the obvious options for grillers - but vegetarians and vegans will also be seeking fresh produce for salads and grilling alternatives. $6.1B of produce was sold in May 2023, according to the Shelby Report.

4. Lots of people drink for the holiday, which means big boosts for brewers.

Bars and breweries alike are keen to help people celebrate the fallen with a round of drinks - which means increased sales for alcohol producers and the growers who supply them. Womply reported that for Memorial Day, bars see a 20% increase in sales, while liquor stores see a 24% increase.

Left: Military boots, faded US Flag; right: Aged farmer with serious expression

5. Agriculture and sacrifice are twined together.

Making sacrifices seem to be the way of the agricultural world. I think it’s because we see the value—the long-term investment that turns into value.

The quote above is by Amy France from her piece "A Sacrifice Worth Making" (originally published in Sorghum Growers magazine). As Weber said above, "sacrificing for other people" is part of the agricultural mentality.

Our agricultural producers work countless hours, pushing their bodies and land to the limits, all in hope of providing food on the table and a better future for the next generation. While their sacrifice is not the same as those who died fighting for our country in wars and armed conflicts, our producers lay their lives down daily for their community and country. If any civilian can understand the struggle, the hard work, and the pain of loss of our veterans - it's our farmers, ranchers, and producers.

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