It's not hard to list our accomplishments here at USDA: After all, our progress on the much anticipated 2014 Farm Bill has been lauded as "the most successful Farm Bill implementation." We also launched a website for New Farmers and started a conversation with women in agriculture that will continue to grow for many years to come.
What is sometimes less obvious is the people whose lives these programs and initiatives impact. So, to wrap up the year, I wanted to share a few of my most cherished memories from my first year as Deputy Secretary.
1. This year, I was honored when Secretary Vilsack asked me to lead the team of USDA employees charged with implementing the Farm Bill and especially excited to work on provisions that impact veterans. I was also proud to announce last month that Karis Gutter will be USDA’s military liaison, a position created by the Farm Bill based on the strong demand for veterans to get into farming. Karis will be instrumental in helping people like disabled veteran and outdoorsman Jason Seaton of East Tennessee achieve his dream of bringing wildlife back to his farm.
2. Farming is a tough business especially when you did not grow up on the farm, but that didn’t stop Pam Schreiber from building her own diversified agricultural business, all while raising her three children. I had the privilege of meeting Pam last winter. Now the owner of Eight Mile Creek Farm in upstate New York, Pam produces more than 30 different kinds of fruits and vegetables, certified organic grass-fed beef, pork, and heritage chicken, as well as cage-free organic eggs. To help people like Pam find information and resources to help them get started, this year we launched www.usda.gov/newfarmers.
3. This past summer, I had the honor of traveling with the first-ever, all-female congressional delegation to Africa to focus on empowering women around the world through agriculture. I met a wonderful young woman named Yetemwork Tilahun who is working with USDA’s Feed Enhancement for Ethiopian Development project to boost milk production on her dairy farm through better feeding practices and farm management. Around the world, USDA is building strong communities and giving farmers the resources they need to do what they love.
4. This year also brought about a new discussion on women’s evolving role in agriculture and what lies ahead. At the White House, I gathered with women from different agricultural backgrounds to discuss ways to inspire the next generation of women leaders.
One woman in particular, Kate Danner, a young farmer in Illinois, is already thinking about what is going to happen to her family’s operation over the next 20 years. After completing her college degree, Kate worked up an innovative business plan for her family farm alongside her father. For the first five years of this plan, Kate works for her father. For the next five years, Kate and her father are joint partners. And for the final five years before full transition, Kate’s father works for her. This young woman continues to trail blaze in what has commonly been a very difficult conversation for parents and their children to have about succession planning.
5. This summer, the White House chose 17 individuals that represent the future of agriculture to honor at a Champions of Change event. Coming from both rural and urban backgrounds, these champions showcased the passion that is evident across all areas of the agriculture industry. For instance, Pierre Sleiman of California took his passion for science and technology and started a hydroponics business, while Fabiola Nizigiyimana started her agriculture career in the United States as a refugee.
I wish I could share the stories of every single person I met this year. Each one of them exemplifies the very best of agriculture and rural America. I am proud of all that USDA has accomplished in 2014, and look forward to seeing new faces and hearing more incredible stories in 2015.