Katie Pratt (center, right) of Dixon, Ill., participates in a meeting between farmers and urban moms at the 2011 Illinois Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
CHESTERFIELD, MO. - The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) on Tuesday named Katie Pratt of Dixon, Ill., one its four “Faces of Farming and Ranching.”
A nationwide search last summer yielded more than 100 farmers who were willing to be spokespeople for agriculture on a national level. The idea is to put real faces on modern agriculture and to have these people available to answer questions from consumers about how food is grown and raised.
“One of the stories that needs to be told is that we’re families operating businesses. Our farm is our livelihood. It’s our way of life, but it’s also our business and so it is in our best interest to pay attention to the people who are purchasing our product, to pay attention to the market, and then to make changes if necessary in how we raise our crops or our livestock,” said Pratt, who farms with her husband Andy, his parents and his brother’s family. “Or, it gives us an opportunity to look at our farms and discover that what we are doing is good and knowing that we can improve on that in the future.”
Their family farm is a limited liability corporation for tax purposes. But the labor is strictly family members across the generations. Pratt said another concern she’ll address with consumers is the use of technology. She is looking for an open and honest dialogue with anyone she encounters through this role.
“Honesty is the best policy. We have these big issues. Biotechnology, antibiotics… those seem to be the ones that get the most questions. If you tell the truth in the beginning, you don’t have to remember what you’re going to say next, right?” Pratt pointed out. “So, I welcome those questions and I can speak from what I know and what we do on our farm and for us it’s a matter of studying, researching and ensuring that we are comfortable with that because we live there. Our children consume those products, as well, so we have to exercise that same caution of a consumer that might live in town or the big city, as well.”
Pratt, who has two children, believes the most important conversations will take place face to face, perhaps with another mother.
“I would like find out how her perceptions of food are developed and why does she believe what she believes, and then have her feel comfortable enough to ask me the hard questions so that I can give my honest answer. I have discovered that that one on one connection… you can’t duplicate that on the internet, you can’t duplicate that in a panel discussion. One on one is the best way to go, and I find myself learning so much,” said Pratt.
Three other farmers were also named “Faces of Farming and Ranching” by the USFRA. They are hog farmer Chris Chinn of Clarence, Mo.; dairy farmer Will Gilmer of Sulligent, Ala., and hog farmer Bo Stone of Rowland, N.C.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at email@example.com.