Mr. and Ms. Consumer, what do you know about the friendly, neighborhood farmer who brought you your mixed veggies this week? Not much, I’d wager. The new U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) wants to change that.
Out here in the breadbasket of the nation we all know our farmers and what they do for the economy and for our communities, but what does the guy at the gas station in Brooklyn know about them? In fact, many folks look at farmers negatively, thinking of them as a drag on the economy or someone who lives at the public trough while getting rich on the backs of we who must have food to survive. That’s where the USFRA hopes to come in. They are sponsoring a contest to find the “Faces of Farming and Ranching.”
The contest is searching for those farmers and ranchers who “put a real face on agriculture and shine a light on the heart, personalities and values that are behind today’s food.” Entries will be accepted through Sept. 8 at www.FoodDialogues.com. The top 10 – 15 finalists will be announced at the November 2012 Food Dialogues events in New York City. Winners will be announced in January 2013 based on votes and the recommendations of a panel of judges.
The USFRA has undertaken a movement to bring farmers and ranchers together with the idea of answering those pithy questions put forward by the who-the-heck-do-these-farmers-think-they-are? crowd. In looking for the Face of Farming and Ranching, the group wants to get producers together to answer those questions about how our food is grown and raised.
USFDRA president Bob Stallman, who is also president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said: “Many voices are leading conversations about food – and often leaving the people who grow and raise our food out. We need to find the best people to be part of these conversations and represent the real farmers and ranchers of America.”
Stallman said farmers and ranchers who are anxious to share their stories of how they raise a variety of foods differently, at differing scale and in all areas of the country should apply for the designation. The idea is to tap into the rich diversity of American agriculture. The public will get to know the “Faces” winners through national media interviews, advertising and public appearances, USFRA said. Each “Face” will receive a $10,000 stipend and a $5,000 donation to their preferred ag-related or local charity.
The Farmers and Ranchers Alliance is a newly-formed alliance consisting of a wide range of prominent farmer-and-rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners. The formation marks the first time such groups at the national, regional and state levels have collaborated to lead a dialogue while answering Americans’ questions about how we get our food. It’s high time such a dialogue took place and perhaps it will enlighten the average person’s view of those who till our land and husband our livestock.
I’ll see ya.
An Iowa native, Peter Graham has been a rural newspaper editor for 39 years. He currently edits a twice-weekly paper in Western Iowa. You can contact him at (712) 642-2791 or news@missourivalley times.com