More than 150 interested people turned out last week to learn more about speaking out and speaking up to tell agriculture's important story.
The meeting, sponsored by the ProAnimal Coalition of Northeast Ohio, was planned to encourage those involved in agriculture in various ways to help today's urban population understand the excellent care livestock farmers give to their animals.
With rare exceptions, today's livestock farmers provide better care for their animal than any time in the history of our country. Featured speakers at this conference stressed that point and discussed how to get that information across to the 80 to 85 percent of our country that live in urban communities.
The ProAnimal Coalition is a group of dedicated farmers, educators, veterinarians and business people. Their mission is to deliver a proactive program to educate and inform everyone about the outstanding care farmers and ranchers give to their animal and to ensure a safe and affordable food supply.
Ken Ruprecht, a dairy farmer from Knox County, talked about the challenge facing livestock farmers today. He stressed the fact that today's generations are not connected to agriculture and have little understanding of farming.
He mentioned some of the myths today about agriculture based on lack of understanding. Livestock farmers are passionate about the kind of care they give to their animals, he said, and animal proteins are essential in our diets.
Darrell Ruble, director of Volunteer Development for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, presented a live-wire presentation to help the group be comfortable and willing to speak up and speak out about today's agriculture.
He stressed the ideas that public speakers should know their audience, that it is OK to be nervous when speaking, know your subject matter and keep the message simple and concise. Each person was given a handbook on public speaking to use as they give their talks later.
Featured speaker for the afternoon was Matt Sutton-Vermeulen, president of Unison Resource. He has long experience in the food and animal industry and is well-known for his work with the livestock industry. His topic was "Becoming an Animal Agriculture Activist: Channeling Your Passion."
Ohio livestock farmers need be proud of what they do and willing to tell that to others, he said.
The average person in the United States trusts farmers but are relatively unaware and uninformed.
Farmers and others in the agricultural industry must be willing to share their story honestly and factually so that urban people can understand what is true. They need to maintain that public trust by continuing the excellent job of animal care they are doing and telling others what they do.
If the livestock industry and others in agriculture don't share their true story, groups who have no real knowledge of farming will be telling a distorted, untruthful picture of today's farmers. These include the radical animal rights groups that have the agenda of taking all animal products off our dinner table, stopping hunting and fishing and medical research using animals along with radical environmentalists.
A goal of the meeting was to get as many people as possible to sign up to help form an agricultural speaker's bureau. This group, as soon as it is organized, will be available to speak to any interested group about today's livestock and other farming practices.
This meeting was held at beautiful West Woods Park in Geauga County. Jessica Hazel, organization director for the Ashtabula-Geauga-Lake-Trumbull Counties Farm Bureau Federation, was in charge of the meeting. Ice Cream was furnished by Jim Comp, Comp Dairy Farm, Dorset.
Parker grew up in Trumbull County, is retired from The Ohio State University and works with the local Farm Bureau Board.