Earlier this year, the beef checkoff, through the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, participated in the New York Time's "Food for Tomorrow" conference held at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantino Hills, N.Y.
The theme of the event was "Farm Better. Eat Better. Feed the World." It was hosted by the New York Times and included chefs and authors such as Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Sam Kass, Tom Colicchio.
The USFRA sponsored a panel of farmers on the topic of "Big Ag, Big Food: How being good for the Environment is not about Size."
The panel was moderated by Frank Sesno, director of George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs and former CNN Washington, D.C., bureau chief.
Farmers and ranchers serving on the panel included: Julie Maschhoff of The Maschhoffs, Carlyle, Ill.; Bruce Rominger, of Rominger Brothers Farm, Winters, Calif.; and Joan Ruskamp of J&S Feedlot, Dodge, Neb.
The panel discussed everything from transparency to antibiotic use on farms and ranches to their desire to be part of the dialogue about raising food.
"We want to feed you. We don't want hungry kids either. That is a passion for us too. We will get better. We want to be part of the conversation you are having," Ruskamp said.
Similarly, Seth Watkins, a farmer feeder from Iowa, was invited to be part of the last panel discussing "Who Will Farm and How?" which was moderated by Mark Bittman.
Watkins shared his thoughts on the challenges facing farmers today and shared the conversation efforts he's implementing on his farm to be able to raise food for future generations.
Randy Krotz, USFRA CEO, said the farmers helped change the tone of the event to that of dialogue – "a key goal for us in conversation with all detractors.
"We knew that without USFRA's involvement, the voices of farmers and ranchers would not be heard. The panelists, as well as the farmers and members of the agriculture community who attended the meeting with us, showed that American agriculture wants to be part of the dialogue on tough topics - and that we are committed to healthy food for everyone."
While not all opinions may have been changed, farmers, ranchers and other members of the agriculture community had the chance to engage in one-on-one dialogues with major food influencers.
"Mark Bittman, in particular, although he remained critical about antibiotic use, government involvement in agricultural regulation and the food industry in general, seemed to welcome our farmers' voices," said Krotz. "We would never expect to change his opinions - but we would like him and others to understand and acknowledge farmers' and ranchers' commitment to providing healthy food for everyone in a sustainable way."
See the full panel discussion featuring beef producer Joan Ruskamp, pig farmer Julie Maschoff and diversified row-crop and vegetable farmer Bruce Rominger below.
Source: Beef Checkoff