Last week, I had the opportunity to jet set across the country and hit L.A. representing Ohio Farm Bureau and the United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. Sounds glamorous, but I was out there talking about all things agriculture. Who is not to say farming is glamorous, right? What we do is the backbone of our country and very important work, which provides food for many, including my family.
Farmers and Ranchers from across the country, along with TV producers, chefs, business owners and even a few celebrities gathered for talks called the Food Dialogues. Topics covered a wide spectrum about food from the farmer, processor, distributor, store and ultimately on to our dinner tables.
I participated in the panel titled “Real Chef Challenge: Understanding how Food is Grown and Raised.” We had cattle rancher and Dean from Chico State University Dr. Dave Daley; hog farmer Julie Maschhoff; the owners and chefs of the restaurant “Animal,” Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook; Ray Martin, VP Culinary Development for BJ’s Restaurants; Gabe Segovia, Manager of Culinary Innovation of El Pollo Loco; Laura McIntoch, host of “Bringing It Home;” and me. How did I fit into this equation? I was not sure at first. Why would they invite a small farm mom from Ohio to participate in this dialogue? When I arrived, I saw very few familiar faces. But as our conversation began, I came to realize the importance of a small farmer/mother role at our conversation table.
From left to right: Jon Shook, Kristin Reese, Ray Martin, Gabe Segovia
I have a very unique role that I feel is of great importance in the conversation of food and agriculture. Without one there is not the other. The only thing missing in between the farm and the table is perhaps the most important chair at the table…the farmer who can connect the two. Although our farm is very small, I have a great appreciation of how large farmers farm. I also get to see firsthand the practices that they use and learn if I do not already know why things are done the way they are. I also understand how both very large and very small farms can serve vital roles in our food supply.
I often wonder why some in our culture think big is bad and small is good. Why is one better than the other? Why can we not work together to make what we do better, whether big or small?
On our small farm I am continually looking to make sure we are doing the best we can. Sometimes you learn new techniques to improve your farming toolbox. The same is true for all sectors of agriculture.
The other challenge facing agriculture is its responsibility to meet the food needs of a growing population with increasing restrictions. We need farms large and small to work together to produce food to meet these needs. Because we all need to eat, there is room for all types and styles of farming. We are fortunate to live in a free country where we have the opportunity to support causes we feel are important and make the food choices we feel are best for our families.
|The tv crew setting up for the event. Those are crew member sitting in at the table
checking the lighting where we sat.
What I learned most from my Hollywood adventure is that there is a definite breakdown between the farmers/ranchers and the mom at the grocery store or even the restaurant owner or chef who puts the food on the table.
On a trip to Chicago, I met a woman who changed my perspective on the way I talk about agriculture. This was a fantastic experience that opened my eyes as to how others view farmers alike. While I did not agree with most of her statements, I did feel her passion for making sure she and others eat safe and healthy foods. I am not an expert at much, but I sure do have a passion for family, food and agriculture. I invite you to become part of the conversation. If you have questions, find a farmer in your community to ask those tough questions. Let’s put all of our passion to good use and accomplish great things together from the West Coast to the East Coast and all of the farm fields in between.