By STEVE BINDER
DIXON, Ill. — An Illinois woman selected as one of the first U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliances’ (USFRA) Faces of Farming and Ranching this year says she’s eager to get on a national stage and help improve communications between growers and consumers.
Katie Pratt, of former Pres. Ronald Reagan’s hometown of Dixon, Ill., is a seventh-generation farmer along with her husband, Andy, and is one of four selected as a USFRA ‘Faces’ representative for 2013.
“We have a lot of faces of farming in our fellow farmers and ranchers who advocate for agriculture,” Pratt said. “But, the goal here is to put some faces on a bigger, national platform and give us an opportunity to speak to a larger group of people. We’re given an opportunity to be in front of people that otherwise we would not be able to. We can answer questions and listen to concerns and tell our stories about how we farm and why we make the decisions we make.”
The other three USFRA ‘Faces’ are Chris Chinn of Missouri, Will Gilmer of Alabama and Bo Stone of North Carolina.
Pratt and the other winners receive a $10,000 stipend for serving as a USFRA spokesperson and also will select an agriculture-related charity for a $5,000 donation.
She and her husband grow corn, beans and seed corn at Grand Prairie Farms, now a partnership with her husband’s family. She has two children, Ethan and Natalie. Pratt also is a Farm Mom with the Illinois Farm Families program and serves as the Lee County Agriculture in the Classroom coordinator.
“With the technology that is available today, we can drive through a field on our tractor and know exactly what’s happening on a square foot of ground versus an entire 80-acre field, which allows us to focus on what we need to do to make that area better than it is today,” Pratt said. “Fewer people are involved in farming than ever before, and as a result, we are discovering that conversations with consumers about farming are needed so that we understand their concerns, and they understand and are comfortable with the way food is grown and produced.”
As a ‘Faces’ representative, Pratt will first travel to other farms throughout the country and learn more about the industry outside of their own states.
“I’m very interested to explore other types of agriculture,” Pratt said. “There’s so much out there and to serve as a spokesman for agriculture you need to know those types of things. I hope that, as a group, we’re able to have respectful conversations and really learn a lot for each other.”
Pratt also will take part in Ag Day activities in Washington, D.C. in mid-March as well as a trip to New York City in April to meet with consumer media representatives and for a dinner with prominent bloggers.
“We’re very proud of Katie and her family,” said the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Jennifer Smith. “She will do a great job of representing Illinois’ bright future for farming. I believe it’s a victory for everyone involved in Illinois agriculture.”