Season’s Greetings to you, our Midsouth NAMA members!
We are very proud to wrap up an exciting Fall Program Series devoted to Advocacy in Agriculture. Advocacy is one of the three pillars of our Chapter mission. We all want to be better educated on the things that shape our industry so that we can communicate effectively and have more informed conversations. It is this idea that gave our Fall Program Series shape.
In September, we invited our local “Bartlett Bee Whisper” David Glover to talk to us about Bees. Honey Bees have slowly been dying the last 60+ years. There is a lot of speculation on the causes, but David explained firsthand what our good pollinators are up against. From numbers as high as 5 million bees in 1940 to only 2.4 million in 2014, these bees having been disappearing due to diseases and viruses. We learned that 60% of the honey bee population is sent to California to pollinate almond trees in the Spring. David also shared interesting facts relating to bee keeping, and that bee keepers are disappearing along with the bees. And finally, we learned the real reason bee keepers use smoke when they work with the hive, it’s not what you think!
Our October program featured a night at the movies. Popcorn and pretzels were served as we listened to Larry Stoller, the Affiliate & Industry Relations Manager for the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, speak about the movie Farmland, and how it came to fruition. The USFRA vetted 20 producers before James Moll was selected as both producer and director. Mr. Moll wanted total creative control and selected all the farmers that were featured in the movie. While the movie was funded by the USFRA® there was very little input from them on how the film and the farmers would be portrayed in the documentary – contrary to popular belief.
In addition, Larry talked about how they marketed the documentary. The USFRA has long term goals to have this film be a part of school curriculum, much like Food Inc, appears in schools today. Our younger generation needs more exposure to farmers, and this film will help that. To help further distribute the film, the USFRA is rallying support through an “I Am Farmland” campaign. For more information, visit www.iamfarmland.com.
In November, we wrapped up our series with a panel discussion on Farmers Markets. There has been tremendous growth in this business segment, very much driven by the heightened consumer interest in “local” food. Mac Edwards, former Memphis Farmers Market board member and current restaurateur, and Mark Hoggard, current manager of the Agricenter Farmers Market joined us to go over the nuts and bolts of running a successful farmers market. We learned that different markets have different rules on whether they allow resellers or co-opers, or insist it be the actual farmers bringing the food to market. Most markets have basic controls in place, such as going by pre-determined lists of what produce they will offer (watermelon in December makes everyone suspicious). Many market directors also make site visits so they know exactly how their growers operate. One key learning here is the various certifications needed – organic, health department, etc., are on the onus of the grower and not the market.
Of course the big question on our minds was “what impact does this have on Big Ag – are you discouraging commercial farming with this approach?”. From Mark and Mac’s perspective – the answer is no. They feel that they are doing something important, giving a face to the American farmer. This is a common goal. Along with this, they are giving smaller farmers an opportunity to succeed at their business. You could see the pride beaming from Mark’s face as he relayed a tale of “a guy with a dream”, a young guy that wanted to make Pimento Cheese. He did just that, got his start in the Farmers Markets, and is now looking at larger retail distribution.
These are just a few snapshots of the great content that was shared this Fall. We rely on your support to put on these great programs, and appreciate those who have been able to join us. We are sorry for those that could not join us, but hope this is intriguing enough to see you in the future!
We have an exciting Spring ahead of us!
January 20th – MidSouth Best of NAMA (Jim's Place Grille, Collierville)
February – Student NAMA competition
March – Ag Day celebration
April – National Convention
May – fun event TBD
Look forward to seeing you next year!