There’s one phrase I’ve heard several farmers say this season, and I’m pretty sure many others are thinking it: “What a difference a year can make!”

From the dried up and struggling fields of last summer to the nutrient-rich, dark-green soybeans and the mostly thriving corn this year, there definitely is a huge difference in the quality of Indiana’s crops.

While excess water and mild temperatures delayed planting, compared to last year, the crops have mostly caught up to where they should be in growth. It’s so good to see a year where most farmers are expecting a bountiful harvest.

I feel like the high yield predictions from economists such as Chris Hurt at Purdue University and agronomists around the state bring an extra sense of optimism that really is needed. Farmers see the growth every day, and they know if their fields are doing well.

But for the many people who don’t farm and who don’t have close ties to rural communities, hearing the yield predictions must bring optimism. It satisfies a basal level of need — the need to provide food for family.

I’ve always felt that harvest is a celebration of life and another year of having everything we need to continue living a healthy, happy lifestyle. In a world of fast-food restaurants and quick microwave dinners, it’s easy to forget the value, quality and even the beauty of food.

Seeing 10-gallon buckets full of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables from my cousin’s backyard garden reminds me of how truly good it feels to grow and harvest food.

After canning plenty of green beans and making enough dinners to feed her family, my cousin hands out all the extra food to family and friends at church. How selfless it is, to share something as important as food.

And for all you other backyard gardeners, I hope your collection of picked food is as bountiful as what I’ve seen from friends and family.

While I want to cherish my days of living in an apartment once I’m married, I do look forward to having a backyard of my own — maybe a field of strawberries and blueberries and some cucumbers and peppers.

I want to plant apple trees like my grandpa always has and live somewhere where I can look outside and see corn, wheat and soybeans growing.

The connection growers and gardeners have with food is something I really admire. It wouldn’t hurt any of us to stop and appreciate what we eat.