It’s not every day that you’re rubbing shoulders with a Congresswoman and some of Ohio’s most influential agriculture stars and trendsetters.Farm and Dairy reporter, Kristy Foster and I drove to Burton, Ohio, to Hasting’s Dairy Farm, where we observed a listening session, recently. (The last “listening session” I was part of consisted of several entertainment journalists all regretting the decision of covering a local recording studio’s latest flagship artist. It wasn’t pretty) Entertainment journalists are invited to these “listening sessions” because musicians and publishers hope that the media will create positive buzz for the band’s latest album prior to the album’s release. I, like many journalists, went back to my office, after the music “listening session,” to spill out my thoughts under fluorescent lights.
Rep. Marcia Fudge
This listening session wasn’t about buzz, it was about –well– listening. Some of Ohio’s most dedicated farmers and agri-stars were to speak. Rep. Marcia Fudge of Cleveland’s 11th District and a member of the House agriculture committee was to listen. The purpose of the listening session was to allow Fudge to hear the questions, comments, concerns and complaints of those affected most by the upcoming farm bill, farmers and those involved in the non-production side of agriculture like food banks and farmers markets. Urban farmers from the Cleveland area lobbied for more policies to aid in growing fruits and vegetables in urban settings, rural farmers were concerned about crop insurance and risk management and those involved in distributing the food were interested in government support for food-banks. Unlike other “listening sessions” I’d been to, there was no ego, no mention of piracy or artistic license. In truth, at this listening session, it seemed like everybody wanted the same thing: what was best for the farmer and for the consumer. Coming to that realization was comforting, to me. Farmers seem to know that we’re all in this together. In contrast, bands often record the music they love and hope their fans approve. It’s often not about the fans or consumers in the music industry, it’s, unfortunately, about the bands.
As an agriculture and farming outsider, my trip to Hasting’s Dairy was a great learning experience. Listening to the farmers, urban and rural, opened my eyes to the problems they face every day. It’s not easy being a farmer. Pests, disease, drought, floods, fluctuating markets, the environment, insurance and, in some cases, escaping livestock are on a farmer’s mind. There’s no room for error. There was a time in my life when I thought, “Hey, I could totally farm. It’ll be a great experience. I’ll watch my corn grow all day.” Since then, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll keep writing in my notebook under the fluorescent lights instead.
Here’s Kristy Foster’s take on the Congresswoman’s visit.
Also, check out Brenda Hastings’ blog post about that afternoon.