Over 250 people gathered at the Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, New Hampshire last week to celebrate USDA’s 150th Anniversary on a hot, humid summer day.
The hosts – Carole Soule and Bruce Dawson graciously opened their farm as the perfect location for this event. After driving up a narrow road, we discovered a scurry of activity as guests were welcomed and directed to a field set up with tents, farmer market vendors, informational booths and people.
The people who attended, shared interest in and knowledge of agriculture and the work of the USDA. Community members, state, federal and local officials came together to celebrate the 150 year history of the USDA and to share their visions of the USDA going forward.
Judith Canales, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development and the keynote speaker, delivered stirring remarks on behalf of President Obama and Secretary Tom Vilsack. She spoke about "The People's Department" as declared by President Lincoln 150 years ago. She noted New Hampshire's history as one of the original thirteen colonies when USDA was created by President Lincoln. She added that it was appropriate to be celebrating on a farm that existed in 1830 - even older than the USDA!
Camaraderie was felt throughout the tent as Rick Ellsmore, Natural Resources Conservation Service State Executive Conservationist and master of ceremonies spoke to the audience followed by staff from each member of the congressional delegation.
Lorraine Merrill, Commissioner New Hampshire Dept of Agriculture, Marketing and Foods spoke eloquently about the historic significance of the USDA and stated that in spite of the raging civil war, the Congress and President managed to launch the USDA, sign the Morrill Land Grant College Act, pass the Homestead Act and complete the Transcontinental Railroad. New H Farm Bureau President, Jeff Holmes, made a plea to get the Farm Bill passed.
After the Two Chiefs Award Ceremony recognizing the joint efforts of conservationists, the crowd visited the vendors, chatted with many agency representatives and toured nine projects on the Miles Smith Farm funded by USDA Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development and New Hampshire Department of Agriculture.
For the more adventurous, there was an opportunity to ride a Scottish Highlander cow named Missy.
The day ended with a dedication of a People’s Garden and plaque as a thank you to Carole Soule, Bruce Dawson and Miles Smith Farm for their warm hospitality.
What a great way to celebrate a great agency - its work and its people!