Over the last year, America’s farmers and ranchers have reached over 100 million people with #StillFarming. It started as a simple message, a year ago this week, to reassure folks that we were still on the job, committed to getting food to everyone’s tables when the American Farm Bureau tweeted: “Farmers & ranchers are #StillFarming—providing for the nation during these challenging times.”
Of course, that statement had been true of agriculture long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but folks easily lose sight of agriculture’s importance to our society and national security, especially the further removed from the farm most Americans get. With farmers making up just 2% of the population and most Americans living in suburban and urban areas far from farmland, the connection to the farm has largely been lost for consumers. Many had taken for granted that food would always be on hand at the nearest store or market. If that isn’t a sure sign of how reliable the American farmer and food system is, and has been for centuries, I don’t know what is.
None of us will soon forget what it was like to see grocery shelves wiped out, dairy and meat cases empty, and produce bins picked clean. I didn’t expect to see anything like that in my lifetime, and I hope and pray we never do again. Farmers and ranchers never wavered in our commitment to get food to Americans who needed it most. The #StillFarming campaign became a megaphone for farmers and ranchers to reassure the public that we were on the frontlines alongside our employees growing and harvesting the food we all depend on. We were part of a massive effort to both redirect restaurant supplies to grocery stores and to restock empty food bank shelves. It required the dedication of farmers, charities, and government leaders to meet the need.
That’s not to say there weren’t real challenges and heartbreaking losses. This pandemic has not left any of us untouched, but even in the darkest times there have been glimmers of hope and the resilience of the human spirit. We saw those glimmers across our communities, from the frontline healthcare workers to volunteers who showed up, even at personal risk, to serve those in need.
I have often remarked throughout this last year that a silver lining we have seen in agriculture is how consumers gained a greater understanding and appreciation of where their food comes from. In fact, an AFBF survey found that farmers are among the most trusted groups of professionals, with nearly 9 in 10 Americans expressing trust in farmers. We build that trust by sharing our story, and #StillFarming has been an amazing outlet for doing just that.
#StillFarming has reached far and wide. To date the hashtag has been used in all 50 states and more than 90 countries. That tremendous success is thanks to work across our state and county Farm Bureaus and grassroots members.
What’s more, trust in farmers and ranchers increased, by 4%, even after consumers faced empty shelves and long food bank lines and heard the heartbreaking stories of farmers being forced to dump products that couldn’t be packaged and shipped due to supply chain breakdowns. How did trust still go up in such an uncertain time? I believe it’s because America’s farmers and ranchers showed the nation that we have their backs. We didn’t give up, we gave back. We showed our neighbors and our communities that feeding people truly is our mission. Across the Farm Bureau family, in 2020 alone, we have given $5.4 million, 1.4 million pounds of food and over 20,000 gallons of milk to local food banks, food pantries and pandemic relief programs.
A year in, the #StillFarming campaign continues to be a great platform to share our farm stories with consumers, and I hope we’ll all continue to build on the engagement of the last year. I invite all of you to share your stories using the hashtag. It can be as simple as a tweet and a photo of what’s happening on your farm today or a video sharing more about how you grow crops or care for your animals. Rain or shine, pandemic or not, America’s farmers and ranchers are #StillFarming, and we will continue as long as there are people counting on the food, fiber and fuel we provide.
Building on the success of the #StillFarming campaign and our commitment to give back, AFBF presents a line of #StillFarming to Feed America T-shirts. ALL profits are donated to Feeding America and the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.