Rural Texas is sometimes an afterthought. It's wrong, but true.
Many in urban areas consider us "hicks" or "gun-toting zealots."
According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, here are some facts for those who knock us small-town folk to consider:
• Texas is the second-largest agricultural state in the United States, accounting for about 7 percent of the total U.S. agricultural income.
• The food, horticulture and fiber industry is the second-largest industry in the state and generates $73 billion a year for the economy.
• Texas is the fifth-largest wine-producing state with more than 155 wineries and 220 commercial vineyards, producing more than 2 million gallons of wine. The Texas Hill Country Viticultural Area is the second-largest Viticultural Area in the United States, covering 15,000 square miles.
• Eighty percent of the land in Texas is in some form of agricultural production.
• Ninety-two percent of Texas' agricultural operations are still run by individuals or families.
• Although agriculture employs one out of every seven working Texans, less than 2 percent of the population is involved in day-to-day farming or ranching.
• Texas farmers grow more than 60 different commercial fruit and vegetable crops.
• Texas ranks first in the nation in the number of cattle and calves, accounting for 15 percent of the U.S. total. The Lone Star State also is the top producer of cotton, sheep, wool, goats, mohair and horses. The state's top crops also include vegetables, citrus, corn, wheat, peanuts, pecans, grain sorghum, hay and rice.
• Besides livestock and crops, the state's agriculture industry includes timber/forestry, aquaculture, bees/honey and nursery/greenhouse.
• Texas is the third largest exporter of agricultural commodities. Texas' top agricultural exports are live animals and red meat; cotton and cottonseed; hides and skins; wheat and products; and feeds and fodder.
• Each Texas farmer grows enough food and fiber for 128 people - 94.3 in the United States and 33.7 abroad.
• Texas' 1 million horses, representing approximately 15 percent of all horses nationwide, makes the state a leader in the United States. Texas also leads the nation in the number of registered American Quarter Horses, American Paint Horses, Appaloosa horses and American Miniature Horses.
Next time someone knocks rural Texas or America to you, tell them to get their facts straight.
Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008