Our organization’s mission statement is pretty succinct: “New Hampshire Farm Bureau Federation is a membership organization dedicated to advocacy for and education about agriculture.” Those two pillars, advocacy and education, are the foundation upon which all of our work is built.
Often it’s our advocacy work in the halls of the State House and Legislative Office Building that are our most recognizable contributions to agriculture. After all, these efforts, over 103 years, have resulted in successes like affordable expansion of power and lighting to rural areas in the 1930s, the establishment of Current Use law in the 1970s, and enabling local agricultural commissions in the early 2000s (just to name a few). The dedication of NH Farm Bureau staff and members alike has also prevented legislation potentially damaging to agriculture from being passed.
The fact of the matter is, however, that advocacy doesn’t exist solely at the Capitol. It starts on farms and woodlots across the state. It thrives in conversations farmers have in the supermarket or on social media. By offering your experiences and practices as a primary source to the non-agricultural world you are actively advocating for your own way of life while educating them at the same time.
An impactful and easy way to connect with the non-farming community is to participate in New Hampshire Agriculture in the Classroom’s School to Farm Days. These events, organized by NHAITC State Coordinator Debbi Cox and held across the state, invite fourth grade students to a local farm where they will visit dozens of stations explaining various aspects of agriculture. The fusion of education and advocacy was fully demonstrated at the Belknap County School to Farm Day on September 24th, hosted at Ramblin’ Vewe Farm in Gilford, where nearly all of the stations featured NHFB members.
“Interaction with the kids is what it’s about. There are so many people removed from agriculture,” Belknap County Farm Bureau President Brian Matarozzo said. He, his wife Amy, and their son Hayden brought one of their dairy cows from LorrenJoyce Farm in Barnstead to the event as part of their station on cows and milk.
Along with cows, the Belknap County School to Farm Day offered students a chance to see and learn about goats, chickens, oxen, garlic, soil conservation, maple sugaring, and more. “In the several hours that they are rotating stations they learn about the connections to agriculture in their daily lives,” NHAITC Coordinator Debbi Cox explained. “We try to incorporate history, math, science and more to really coordinate with teachers’ curriculum.”
The New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut stopped by as well to get a better understanding of just how important hands-on learning opportunities like School to Farm days are in the overall education system. “All of the various tactile things, the overall experiences are really a concrete learning opportunity for the kids,” Edelblut observed.
That’s the long way around getting to my point, which is that advocacy and education become the same thing when you share your story. Share it with your neighbors, your fellow church parishioners -anyone who will listen! But most importantly, share it with our youth. Someone is going to provide the next generation of leaders and thinkers with a depiction of agriculture. It’s up to us in the agriculture community to make sure that depiction is accurate.