At this special time of year, my family and I like to pause to give thanks for our many blessings. This season is known for the fall harvest and bountiful meals with friends and family, so it is especially appropriate to give thanks for Kentucky’s farmers.

Kentucky’s farmers — and those throughout America — produce the food and fiber we all depend on. Thanks to their skill, ingenuity and hard work, we are blessed with the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world.

The average American farmer feeds 144 people. American farmers produce a variety of foods unmatched anywhere on Earth, making it possible for us to have the wholesome, balanced meals we need to survive and thrive.

Right here in Kentucky, our farmers produce a growing diversity of crops and livestock. Their experience and expertise enable them to make the most of Kentucky’s temperate climate and rich, fertile soils. Some of them run family farms that have been fixtures in their communities for generations, even centuries. They feel a deep kinship with the soil they work and the consumers they serve.

Many Kentucky farmers market their products with help from the Kentucky Proud farm marketing program. Kentucky Proud has put millions of dollars in the pockets of Kentucky farmers in the last five years, enabling their operations to survive and even prosper. Kentucky Proud also helps consumers find Kentucky-raised or -processed foods that they can serve to their families with confidence.

Farmers also contribute to our local and state economy. Kentucky farmers took in a record $4.7 billion in cash receipts in 2008, and agriculture as a whole accounts for more than a quarter of Kentucky’s economic activity. Agriculture puts thousands of Kentuckians to work in our rural communities as well as our urban areas.

Farmers are our relatives, friends and neighbors. Many of them are leaders in our churches, schools and communities. Young farmers and students in 4-H and FFA will play a vital role in Kentucky’s progress and prosperity for years to come.

In the spirit of the season, I hope you will join me in giving thanks for farmers and asking for rich blessings upon them that they may continue their noble and essential work.