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The Kiwanis Club of Monticello gave tribute to farmers at their weekly meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
In recognition of Farm-City Week, the luncheon’s invited guests included local and state Farm Bureau officers, board members and staff; the 2022 Farm Family of the Year, Clay and Karl Fulford; and numerous officials.
Farm-City Week takes place annually during the week before Thanksgiving and is an important way to focus attention on and celebrate how rural and urban communities work together to make our food supply safe and plentiful. Through this rural-urban partnership, food comes from farmers to packing/processing operations to distribution networks to grocery stores to you, the consumer.
For the local Farm-City Week luncheon, the food supply chain went from chicken, wheat and vegetable farmers to packing houses and break bakers and cake shapers to trucking companies to suppliers to The Porch on the Green restaurant to the Jefferson Country Club, where it was enjoyed by Kiwanis members and their guests as delicious sweet-and-spicy fried chicken sandwiches with a side of creamy pasta salad and cookies.
Following the meal, Kiwanis President Stephen Trent began the program by welcoming Jefferson County Farm Bureau President Ernest Fulford.
“We have some special guests with us today,” said Fulford, recognizing Dan Paasch of US Senator Marco Rubio’s Tallahassee office, Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb Smith, Sheriff Mac McNeill, newly elected Jefferson County Supervisor of Elections Michelle Milligan, Florida House District 9 Representative Allison Tant, Monticello Mayor Julie Conley and Jefferson County Judge Robert Plaines.
Jefferson County Board Member Stephen Monroe then introduced Clay and Kari Fulford, who had been honored with the Farm Family of the Year award in October.
“It’s a tradition of the Farm Bureau to recognize the Farm Family of the Year,” said Monroe. “We couldn’t be prouder of the multi-generational aspect of these farm families, and the Fulfords fit right into that. They have been farming in Jefferson County for over a hundred years.”
They keynote speaker for the occasion was Nathalie Yoder, a third generation Floridian, born and raised in the Panhandle town of Altha, where she grew up working on her family’s cattle operation. A May 2022 graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Agriculture Education and Communication, she now works in public relations at the Florida Farm Bureau as a social media coordinator.
“Farm-City Week is a time that we celebrate the partnerships of everyone from the farm to the grocery store that play a role in ensuring that we have food in our pantries and on the dinner table,” said Yoder. “One of the most favorite parts of my job is… sharing the stories of our farm families statewide who are farming responsively to grow the food for not just our state, but the nation. At Farm Bureau, it’s our job to help farmers and ranchers connect to an audience to build a better understanding of agriculture…whether it’s to a consumer, a neighbor or a legislator.”
Yoder’s speech went on to focus on ways that anyone can help connect with and advocate for their local farming community. She pointed out that less than two percent of the population lives on a farm. That means that 98 percent of Americans probably do not have a connection with the sources of their food.
First, she encouraged non-farmers to go to the farmers markets, visit with local farmers and thank them for what they do.
“A simple thank you can go a long way,” she said.
She encouraged teachers and school staff to use readings that help young people understand the importance of agriculture; coordinate a poster or essay contest to showcase local agricultural products; cater a lunch with food items from local farms; and work with the library to set-up a food and agriculture display about agriculture.
“Show that without cotton, we wouldn’t have our favorite denim jeans or without trees, no toothpaste!” she said, adding that the Farm Bureau public relations team can provide resources to help educators get started.
As a social media coordinator, Yoder had lots of ideas about how the opportunities that social media gives for sharing facts about agriculture and combatting misinformation.
“Almost 50 percent of US adults get their news from social media (including journalists),” she said, “so it’s important for the agriculture community to amplify our voices and take advantage of this viral platform. If you are a farmer, host a virtual farm-tour. If you have a knack for taking pretty photos or posting cooking videos on Instagram, post photos of fresh vegetables used in your favorite holiday recipe. Share facts about a local farm or when posting your delicious green bean casserole, share an ag fact…Did you know that Florida produces 100 percent of the fresh market snap beans grown in the United States during the winter months?”
She suggested that farmers who are photography bugs take “in the field” snapshots to showcase the authenticity of being a producer.
For example, she said, “After Hurricane Ian, we saw images of cattle on pontoon boats being rescued from flooded pastures.”
Those who like to write can publish blogs to advocate for environmentally-friendly farm practices to help consumers appreciate sustainability in agriculture. The Farm Bureau can share these stories in their Florida Farm & Family magazine and recognize farmers who are farming responsively through their THIS FARM CARES program. In Jefferson County, she said, 16 farm families have been recognized since the inception of the CARES program for the locally conserving our natural resources and protecting our wildlife.
“If you are a parent, you can help advocate for agriculture simply by showing your children videos about farming or ranching,” recommended Yoder. “Do a hands-on activity with your child or make a recipe together while teaching them about where the ingredients are grown.”
Yoder encouraged everyone – farmers and consumers alike – to connect with local lawmakers to share stories about current issues that are facing rural Floridians and agriculturists.
“I found my voice in agriculture advocacy by helping tell the true, first-hand stories of farming and ranching in my daily life,” she concluded. “I hope that you have learned a few easy ways of how you can connect with your local farming community and share the importance of agriculture, because however you say it, and however you do it, let others know how we are all connected to agriculture ”
With an impromptu gesture, Trent offered the floor to Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb Smith for any final comments.
Smith accepted, thanked Kiwanis for supporting agricultural programs like 4-H and Farm-City Week, and read a poem giving tribute to the hard work that farmers do.
Finally, to officially designate Farm-City Week for 2022, Judge Robert Plaines signed and presented a proclamation, which concludes: “I call upon all citizens to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of all those who, working together, produce and supply our community, our nation and the world with an abundance of agricultural products.”