Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Farmers advocating for FARMERS!

HildeIt's no easy feat to get off the farm and to Washington, D.C. for two jam-packed days of meetings with legislative offices, but that's just what Mac Stone and 59 other independent farmers, ranchers and sustainable agriculture advocates did earlier this month to urge Congress to restore funding for critical farm programs and to pass a farm bill that advances a thriving and sustainable family farm food system producing good food for all. Farm Aid grantee and partner-group, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), orchestrated the fly-in, and Farm Aid pitched in by supporting Mac's travels.

Mac Stone has been farming for 30 years, and currently produces certified organic beef, poultry, lamb, eggs and vegetables at Elmwood Stock Farm in Georgetown, KY. Over the past decade, Mac and his family have been able to diversify their farm with the help of federal conservation and organic programs. As a result, the farm can now support three families rather than just one. According to Stone, "a little bit of investment has spurred so much growth for our business."

Mac sharing his positive experiences with some of the federal sustainable agriculture programs that are currently "stranded" (without funding) goes a long way in being able to demonstrate their impact and value, bringing an important face and farm into view as elected officials consider the future of farm policy in this country. Having an NSAC staff member alongside him, Mac felt as though they could effectively engage legislative staffers and representatives. Together they could answer specific questions and provide important clarification, so that when these programs come up in the future, those they spoke with will be quicker to engage and understand their value.

As a creative touch, Mac brought along manila folders with drawings of farms by local school children back home in Kentucky – a clever way for the information inside, all about the importance of conservation and sustainable ag programs for family farmers, to stand out from the other paperwork cluttering a desk.

Mac said the experience was very worthwhile, and that it felt good knowing that his presence and the presence of other farmers on the hill were having an impact. He also said it was rewarding to see policy-making strategy at work between the legislative offices and NSAC staff, and to see his participation as a key piece of that effort.

In addition to farming, Mac serves on the National Organic Standards Board, and is a member of Farm Aid grantee and partner-group Community Farm Alliance and a former board member of Farm Aid grantee and partner-group the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

Thanks, Mac, for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak out about the importance of policies that support sustainable production and family farms, and to advocate on behalf of family farmers everywhere.

We need many more family farmers at the table for these meetings in DC and others like them! Are you interested in sharing your story? Let us know!

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