Have you voted for USFRA's newest Faces of Farming & Ranching yet? Voting ends Sunday, November 2 – just a few days left!
USFRA started their Faces of Farming and Ranching contest two years ago, when Katie Pratt, Chris Chinn, Will Gilmer and Bo Stone were named as official spokespeople for agriculture. They each received training, a travel stipend and were called upon to attend events, sit on panels, lead discussions and more, all across the country.
This year, there are eight finalists; you can vote for only one and four will be selected, based on a combination of online voting and judges' scores. The finalists:
- · Erin Brenneman, Iowa
- · Jay Hill, New Mexico
- · Carrie Mess, Wisconsin
- · Thomas Titus, Illinois
- · Darrell Glaser, Texas
- · Brian Jones, Texas
- · Jessica Potter, Colorado
- · Carla Wardin, Michigan
Winners will be announced November 12, during the National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention in Kansas City. Winners will participate in a variety of high-profile events, including national media interviews, advertising and public appearances. Each will receive a travel stipend of $15,000, plus full media training.
Katie Pratt, a Dixon, Ill., farmer, says her experience over the past two years was life-changing. And she'd do it again in a heartbeat.
"Have you ever read those posts about the extroverted introverts? That's me," Katie says. "These two years have been a definite test of how far I am willing to push the borders of my comfort zone. Traveling alone, sharing our farm story for all to see via my blog, standing in front of large groups and declaring that we plant genetically modified seed and apply pesticides…these things required quite a few personal pep talks. But because of the experience, I have a new appreciation for the diversity of American agriculture. We get so boxed in by our own fence rows, seeing a situation from another perspective can be somewhat impossible. The farmers and ranchers I met this year taught me that raising corn in Illinois is nothing like raising corn in South Carolina. And that just because I cultivate vegetables in a garden, I have no business farming vegetables. Every farmer and rancher comes with a unique story, passion and reasoning for doing what he or she does."
The highlight for her was conversing with people on the food service side of the ag community, where she learned that they're interested in good food and preferably food without labels. "They understand that farmers are in a business as well and responding to the whims of consumer trends is not always good for business," she adds.
And the low-light? The stuff within agriculture.
"I quickly learned that the reality of social media is only true to the individual and doesn't have to be my reality. So, the negativity that came to me through my blog, Facebook or Twitter didn't affect me too much," Katie says. " It was the doubters from within the ag community, those who questioned my intentions as a "Face" or the intentions and integrity of USFRA, those folks did get to me a bit. It saddened me that this massive effort to unite agriculture and literally put a face to the American farmer could still be drug into the mud by conspiracy theorists."
Despite all that, she's still optimistic for the mission as a whole. "I still see USFRA as a young organization tackling an incredibly large mission," Katie says. "Livestock guys sitting across the table from grain gals and tabling their differences on policy and price to engage the consumer. That's a big deal! And so, USFRA will grow and learn what to do, what not to do, how to be even more inclusive than it already is.
"And it will only work if farmers and ranchers reach across the table and believe that together we are stronger."