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By Pettus L. Read

Director of Communications for Tennessee Farm Bureau

Wrapped Up In Necessities  

Each month I’m amazed at the new inventions that are introduced by news releases that come across my desk on a daily basis. Many are great ideas concerning the latest, new products that deal with things that could affect us all and some are just an old idea improved upon. Of course, with yours truly being employed in the field of agriculture, the majority of the product pitches I receive are items that are used around the farmstead to help make farming tasks either more profitable or less labor intensive. Anything that saves chore time is always a positive in my book.

While going through a few releases the other day, my attention was drawn to one entitled, “Americans Are Wrapped Up In Their Toilet Paper.” Lately, the news from the farming community has been pretty tough and when I saw a release that didn’t deal with dead fields and lost profits it seemed to say to me, “It’s time to change your focus for a while.” I knew America was “wrapped up” in a lot of things these days, but I never figured toilet paper was one of them. I never give a whole lot of thought to toilet paper and certainly don’t see it as one of America’s major concerns with everything else happening in this country. Right now we are electing a president, debating healthcare, looking for jobs and watching our summer turn into a climate change junkie’s greatest wish. I’ve never considered myself wrapped up in toilet paper issues. Oh, maybe when it is too late and you notice you have nothing but an empty cardboard tube hanging on the wall, but never as having our country wrapped up. When sales go up for this necessity room item, it does help tree farmers, so I guess farming is “wrapped” in the roll somewhere. I read in an answer page on Google that every American in the United States today uses at the very least 49 rolls of toilet paper a year. It said it takes 48 full-grown trees to make roughly 500 rolls and I guess the rough rolls are the cheap kind. When you use the math, that means we use 5 trees a person a year to supply our toilet paper. Who would have ever thought that farmers are important even in the bathroom!

The release was spreading the news about a Consumer Reports study on the top 25 brands of toilet paper. They were saying one brand had beaten its closest competition by 10 to 50 points and had scored a 91 out of a possible 100. The thing that caught my attention was that the scoring was “subjected to specially trained sensory panelists.”

I have looked through numerous classified ads in my life and have seen all kinds of jobs, but I have never seen one where they train you to be a specially trained sensory panelist. I’m just glad there is someone who has the job. I guess once you meet those qualifications you are somewhat limited, but I bet it makes interesting reading on a resume and it is one job where you finally make the cut in the end.

It seems Consumers Reports had put a lot of study into finding the winning brand. They had surveyed America and found out that 72 percent of us hang our toilet paper with the first sheet going over the roll with 28 percent hanging it with the first sheet under the roll. I just look to see if there is a roll. They also found that 40 percent of us are folders, 40 percent are wadders and 20 percent are wrappers, with men being mostly folders. We at least do something half way neat.

The part in the survey that sort of took me back was when Americans were asked if they were stranded on a deserted island, what would they consider to be the number one necessity they would need. For the number one necessity, they listed toilet paper. The citizens of this country put toilet paper above food and water as a necessity during a time of life and death. That may be true during survey times, but I would think when times got tough on a deserted island, food and water just might rank a little higher on the final tally.

I would like to have seen that same survey taken about 60-plus years ago when more folks had the little building out back. A certain catalog would probably have scored higher in parts of this state than the number one tissue today. I’m sure food and water would have done better.

However, the times are changing and people’s attitudes about what is a necessity have changed as well.  We now find whatever we want on the grocery store shelf and have grown to expect it to be there. What once was an extra has become a necessity.  When the power went off recently in the northeast, people there found out what it was like to do without air conditioning, TV, phones and running water. Their ideas of necessities changed real fast. That’s just it, tough times can usually bring us to our senses and get us in the end.

 -       Pettus L. Read is editor of Tennessee Home & Farm magazine and Tennessee Farm Bureau News. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com

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