WASHINGTON — Family farm agriculture has for centuries been the lifeblood of America’s food system, and its continued success is essential in order for our country to have vibrant rural communities and pristine shared natural resources.
As the country celebrated National Ag Day, National Farmers Union (NFU) joined the food and agriculture community by highlighting the important roles family farmers and ranchers play in bettering the world for rural and urban populations alike.
“Family farm agriculture is built into the social and economic fabric of our country,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We as citizens of the United States have benefitted immensely by having families providing our food, fuel and fiber, taking care of our land and water, and generating economic activity in rural and urban communities. As divides widen between farmers and consumers, and rural and urban populations, we need to encourage the success of these families who unite us all.”
Jim and Jenny Briggs, along with their son Justin, milk 56 cows in central Wisconsin. They rise long before the sun to milk and take care of their animals. And they finish their day’s work later than many businesses close up shop. They do this 365 days a year, without fail, to earn a living and provide for their community. And that impact goes far beyond providing milk.
“Dairy is a high input business,” said Jim Briggs. “Family farms who conduct their business locally are big economic drivers. The more family farms you have, operating with stable milk prices, the better off your local economy is.”
Speaking of the current dairy crisis that is currently causing Wisconsin to lose more than 2 dairy farms each day, Briggs says, “The road we are on now is already having, and will continue to have, long term implications for our community.”
Rachel and Eric Sannerud farm hops, hay and cut flowers in central Minnesota. The two share a commitment to bettering the environment around them for their neighbors and future generations.
“Part of why I got into farming, and part of being a good farmer, is to be a good steward of our natural resources,” said Eric Sannerud. “We’ve implemented conservation practices at my business and on our home farm that protect Minnesota waterways and build healthy soils. It’s a choice that not only helps our operation and marketing, but it’s also simply the right thing to do.”
“The most important aspect of farming is the land and your environment,” Rachel Sannerud said. “We’re lucky to have the piece of land that we do, so we’re going to steward it to the best of our ability for those that will have it in the future.”
Rachel and Jeff Kippley raise corn, soybeans and cattle on their family farm near Aberdeen, S.D. They feel that farming is an honest way to make a living, and to positively impact their community and future generations.
“The family farm is the only place we wanted to raise our four children,” said Rachel Kippley. “Farming teaches them the value of hard work and determination. By being good stewards of the land and resources, we’re able to leave the land better than when we began, so that one day our children, can also farm if they choose.”
Kippley, who serves as vice chair on her county commission, noted that family farmers have a long history of service to their communities. “Family farmers are strong advocates for policies that benefit rural America. Through advocating for corn-based products, like E30 gasoline, we’ve had a positive impact on local markets,” she said. In 2018, her county commission made the decision to run all non-diesel vehicles, like their Sheriff and highway fleets, on E30.
Greg Gunthorp, along with his wife Lei and three children, own and operate a pasture-based livestock operation and on-farm processing plant in northeast Indiana. They employ 30 people from the local community full-time and 15 part-time workers. They’ve helped inspire sustainable agriculture solutions and they work to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers.
“For twenty years now, my family has operated Gunthorp Farms, providing consumers with pasture-based pork and poultry,” said Gunthorp. “These practices have been in my family for four generations, and they allow my family and me to provide consumers with a healthy and sustainable food supply while at the same time offering us an alternative to commodity markets. One of the best things that local food and sustainable agriculture allows me to do, besides employing 30 full time and 15 part time employees, is the fact that my children have returned full-time to the operation. The work we do on our farm and in our processing plant ultimately grows consumer trust in the food system and bridges the unfortunate gap that continues to widen between farmers and consumers.”
“I’m proud of the Farmers Union for their support of both direct marketers and commodity producers,” Gunthorp said. “We both have a huge overlap in our need for work on consolidation issues and more transparency in the marketplace.”