Family farmers from throughout the country descended into St. Louis over the weekend for the 24th annual Farm Aid Conference. Stars including Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Mathews were on hand to shine a spotlight on the struggles that small- and mid-sized farmers face.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan was on hand to highlight the Obama Administration's commitment to supporting family farms. She spoke about how various USDA initiatives, including Rural Tour being led by Secretary Vilsack, 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food,' and the Recovery Act, are helping producers and rural communities throughout the country.
Despite the challenges that many farmers are currently facing, there was a genuine sense of optimism from the attendees because they sensed there were also great opportunities.
As Merrigan spoke, there was great enthusiasm for the new 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative as Farm Aid seeks to rebuild local food systems and better connect producers with consumers.
"Farmers face overwhelming challenges as they work each day to put food on our tables, and Farm Aid's ongoing efforts on behalf of family farmers have helped put a human face on this vocation," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "At the same time, there is a bright future for small- and mid-sized producers because there is an agricultural renaissance taking place in America. More and more consumers are wanting to better connect with their producers, and USDA's new 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative helps to accomplish that goal," said Merrigan.