This season is known for the fall harvest, bountiful meals, and the many other blessings for which we all owe a debt of thanks.

When you gather with family and friends around that crowded Thanksgiving table, keep in mind that the fruits (and vegetables, and meats, and bread) of that annual feast wouldn't be possible without the labor of tens of thousands of farm families across the Commonwealth.

From the first settlers who unlocked the rich resources of Kentucky’s soils, our farmers have made valuable contributions to our heritage, our economy and our way of life. Kentucky’s farmers brought livestock to the frontier from the Old Country to feed a growing population, put the flat bottom land of the Purchase and the Pennyrile to work growing crops, held some of the earliest agricultural fairs in the U.S., and, of course, created our signature horse industry.

Today, Kentucky is the horse capital of the world, the leading beef cattle state east of the Mississippi River, and one of the nation’s top poultry-producing states, as well as a significant source of corn, soybeans, tobacco and wheat.

Agriculture is a major economic driver that benefits all Kentuckians. Kentucky farmers surpassed the $4 billion mark in farm cash receipts for the fourth year in a row in 2009 and are forecast to do it again this year. Our agriculture industry is responsible for thousands of jobs all across the Bluegrass State.

One of the best ways you can say "thank you" to our state's hard-working farm families is with your wallet or purse by giving your loved ones the gift of Kentucky Proud this holiday season. At www.kyproud.com, you can find meats, sauces, salsas, cheeses, crafts and a vast array of other products to suit everyone on your shopping list.

The Kentucky Proud search engine is free, easy to use and enables you to search through a database of thousands of products grown, produced or processed in Kentucky. Just go to www.kyproud.com and search by company or product. You can narrow your search to a specific county or city, or search for all products in a county or city.

Consumers have embraced Kentucky Proud since its humble beginnings nearly seven years ago. We expect the program to generate more than $200 million in retail sales through member retailers by the end of 2010. That means more Kentucky jobs and more income for Kentucky farm families.

Farmers deal with economic risk, bad weather and the many physical dangers of their profession, all for the love of the land and their desire to serve their fellow men and women. They often are unappreciated and misunderstood. Please join me in remembering our farmers when you give thanks for your blessings.