By Bailey Corwine
With the population of Americans living in rural parts of the country growing ever smaller, the agricultural community must begin to consider the ways in which it engages with the urban population. Recently a group of key stakeholders, including state and county Farm Bureau leaders and staff, met to discuss the role Farm Bureau plays in cultivating agriculture in an urban setting.
The Urban County Farm Bureau Coalition Summit II was the second such meeting of the coalition, which is working to broaden conversations and develop relationships between traditional farmers and ranchers in rural settings, modern agriculturalists in urban settings, elected local officials, Capitol Hill lawmakers and consumers in a variety of demographic areas.
“We’re always looking for ways for Farm Bureau to be more active and engaged on the county level when it comes to promotion and education, member engagement and building relationships, especially with urban legislators,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Summit attendees heard presentations from Jason Henderson, associate dean of the College of Agriculture at Purdue University, and Hubert Hamer, administrator of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, as well as thoughts from Marie Ruemenapp and Katherine Williams, chair and vice chair of the National Urban Extension Leaders, respectively.
The urgency of connecting urban America with rural America was stressed by each speaker.
“We’re at a crossroads in many different ways,” Henderson said. “But this is the exact right time to engage urban consumers.”
Ruemenapp echoed this statement, saying “the time is now” to have conversations about bridging the gap between America’s farmers and ranchers and the people they feed. She also highlighted the potential for partnerships between Farm Bureau and the Extension service.
The summit wrapped up with a discussion between Randy Kron, Indiana Farm Bureau president, and Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, covering perspectives from their states and the work that is being done to connect with the urban population.
“Going forward, it’s going to be even more important that we are engaging our urban members,” Johansson said. “Those people in our urban centers really are on the front lines in terms of explaining what we do out in the countryside.”
The Urban County Farm Bureau Coalition is led by a steering committee, which is chaired by Marion County (Ind.) President Jack Haefling. The county Farm Bureau surfaced the idea of a coalition focused on connecting urban county Farm Bureaus after a strategic planning exercise. The group has exhibited at two AFBF annual conventions and at the 2019 Farm Bureau FUSION Conference.
Bailey Corwine is an intern in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Communications Department. She will graduate from the University of Arkansas in December with a degree in agricultural communications.