A Gathering of Farmers
The New Hampshire Farm Bureau Associated Women generously invited me to be in their picture. Left to right, Deb Robie, Cindy Blandini, Ruth Mann, Barbara Comtois, Jozi Best (AW president), Ruth Scruton, Judy McPhail, Leandra Pritchard, Carole Soule.
Farmers are solitary people. We love our crops, animals, families, and privacy. But once a year, we hobnob with other farmers at the annual New Hampshire Farm Bureau Federation meeting. NHFB has 3,000 member families spread over our ten counties. Each county organization has a local board, and a different county hosts the annual meeting. It was Merrimack County's turn this year, and the Grappone Conference Center in Concord was the venue.
The meeting included a conference of two to three elected delegates from each county. In the morning session, twenty-four members voted on policies important to New Hampshire farmers. These policies guide Rob Johnson, NHFB Policy Director, when lobbying for farm-friendly laws in the New Hampshire Legislature.
For instance, NHFB supports the New Hampshire Current Use law that has recently been attacked. Suppose this law, which reduces taxes on farmland, was rescinded. If farmland were taxed according to its value as a potential housing development instead of its lower value as a pasture, many farmers would be compelled to sell out.
Farmers who plow fields, fertilize crops, and fight weeds now have another foe: two-legged thieves. People who would never think of stealing from a grocery store will take squash, corn, and other crops from fields. Also costly to farmers are people who ride bicycles or motorbikes or even hike across fields, smashing plants and destroying crops. NHFB has worked to pass laws enhancing penalties for crop theft and agricultural vandalism as well as providing restitution for crop damage.
Other interlopers are bears and deer, who can eat crops or trample them in the dark of night. Hunting is an effective way to protect crops, but frustration bubbled from some NHFB members when they discovered game cameras put on their farms without permission. We farmers like privacy, and unauthorized cameras are, in effect, surveillance devices.
Farm Bureau members also teach children about agriculture. Some people don't know that milk comes from a cow that has given birth and that female cattle can have horns. NHFB houses and provides administrative support for K-12 Agriculture in the Classroom program. This program brings farmers into the classroom and sponsors annual school-to-farm days where students spend a day on a working farm. This year, almost 1,300 fourth-graders in eight counties visited various farms.
The Farm Bureau encourages young farmers (ages 16 to 35) to compete for excellent prizes. Candidates are judged on their involvement in agriculture and leadership skills. Two of this year's winners, Kristen Gowen and Caroline Crouch, are going to the American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in Puerto Rico, where they will compete against young farmers from all 50 states and territories. Oh, to be young again!
NHFB is a grass-roots organization run by farmers to help farmers and landowners. Helping farms also benefits consumers. If you eat food and want to support local farms, please join N.H. Farm Bureau. You don't have to be a farmer to join; you can join to show support for us. Although we enjoy our time alone with crops and livestock, we need all the friends we can get!