Takeaways From the 2021 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit

Stefanie Taillon, Assistant Director

Virginia Farm Bureau is a member of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, a national organization dedicated to bridging the communication gap between farm and food communities. Each year, the Alliance hosts a Stakeholders Summit, which is a fantastic opportunity to interact with a wide variety of people involved in the livestock industry, from farmers to scientists to nutritionists, and learn about the latest developments in all things animal agriculture. For the past two years, the event has been virtual, but still informative and engaging. Here are some of my takeaways from the presentations and discussions at this year’s conference:

  1. Animal agriculture has learned a lot about communication over the years. Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal biotechnology and genomics expert from the University of California, Davis, shared that 37% of U.S. adults believe GMOs are safe to eat compared to 88% of scientists and reminded us that fears are difficult to address using logic and reason. While it’s frustrating to see some groups use the “FUD” tactic (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) against us, we as an industry can do better than that. Animal agriculture has a positive and compelling story to tell if we share it early, before the narrative is shaped for us, and in a creative manner. There’s not just “one” way to communicate information. To increase transparency for customers, Smithfield Foods created an ingredient glossary to explain what exactly those unknown ingredients on the back of the package are used for. Corteva Agriscience focuses on “putting agriculture’s voice in unexpected places”, such as partnering with the BBC on their Follow the Food series. Filament, an animal agriculture marketing company, goes to great lengths to make sure all the graphics they create accurately represent farming realities—even making sure a hay icon looks like alfalfa and not straw!
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Faces of Virginia Farming: Featuring the Real Farm Moms of VA

Virginia Farm Bureau hosted the second episode of its new webinar series, “Faces of Virginia Farming” on May 6th.  Behind every piece of food and fiber is a person with a unique story, and Faces of Virginia Farming gives the public an opportunity to hear directly from these farmers and connect with the people who grow what they eat and wear.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, the episode featured an engaging group of women from across the state who are directly involved in all aspects of their farms, hold leadership positions on boards and community organizations, and work off-farm jobs–all while keeping their families straight!

Putting the “real” in Real Farm Moms were Shelley Butler Barlow of Cotton Plain Farms in Suffolk; Sarah Rudolph of Double R Farms in Wythe County; and Kari Sponaugle of Church Hill Produce in Highland County. They shared authentic and entertaining stories of life on the farm, misconceptions they face, and why they trust our food and fiber supply.

If you missed the episode, you can watch it here. To stay informed of future events, follow Virginia Farm Bureau Federation on Facebook or email facesofvafarming@vafb.com with questions.