By MEGGIE I. FOSTER
CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — After a nationwide search receiving more than 100 applications for the first face of American agriculture, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) announced that not one, but four of the country’s most dynamic, dedicated and passionate farmers would be selected as winners of the Faces of Farming and Ranching program.
The winners, announced on Jan. 22, via news conference and live-streamed broadcast on www.fooddialogues.com include Chris Chinn, a hog producer from Missouri; Will Gilmer, a dairy farmer from Alabama; Katie Pratt, a grain farmer from Illinois and Bo Stone, a grain, hog and cattle farmer from North Carolina.
According to Chris Novak, chairman of the USFRA advisory committee, the winners will act as national spokespeople, traveling across the country, sharing stories and experiences on a national stage to help answer consumers’ questions about how food is grown and raised to feed our nation.
“The four winners selected are passionate about farming and ranching, and eager to share their stories about the innovative ways they continue to improve food production each day,” said Bob Stallman, chairman of USFRA and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “There are a lot of misconceptions and questions among consumers about how food gets from the farm to our tables. These four individuals are equipped with the passion and experience necessary to address these complicated issues and give honest answers.”
Chris Chinn and her husband, Kevin, are fifth generation farmers – farming with his parents and brother. They own and operate a 1,500-sow, farrow-to-finish hog operation and 60 head of cattle in addition to growing corn, soybeans, hay and rye.
Will Gilmer and his father own and operate a 200-cow Holstein dairy farm, which has been in continuous operation since Will’s grandfather established it in the early 1950s. In addition to milking, the Gilmers raise their own replacement heifers, while managing 600 acres of land used for pasture and forage production.
Katie Pratt and her husband, Andy, farm in partnership with Andy’s family. They raise corn, soybeans and seed corn for Wyffel Hybrids seed, a regional, family-owned company. In addition to the grain operation, they welcome tour groups to their farm as part of a family tradition, which started back in the early 1970s.
Bo Stone jointly owns P&S Farms with his parents and wife, Missy. They grow 2,300 acres of row crops, raise approximately 10,000 pigs annually and have 60 cows. They also grow 2 1/2 acres of strawberries and four acres of sweet corn to sell at their own roadside market. Stone represents the sixth generation to farm his family’s land.
The process to select the new Faces of Farming and Ranching began in the summer of 2012 when USFRA invited farmers and ranchers from across the country to submit a video and essay application describing their personal efforts made to reach consumers to share the story of agriculture.
Then on Nov. 15, the USFRA named nine finalists, from which thousands could go online and learn more about and vote for whom they believed best represented American agriculture. The voting took place from Nov. 15 until Dec. 15.
In addition to the public vote, a panel of judges from throughout the food and agriculture community interviewed and evaluated the finalists to help determine the winners of Faces of Farming & Ranching. Criteria included the ability and commitment to share their stories about continuous improvement; involvement with the community and agricultural organizations; strong speaking capabilities, and a passion for what they do.
For more information on the Faces of Farming and Ranching program, visit www.fooddialogues.com