Visiting Farms and touring Loudoun and DC seemed a little ironic since I live in Purcellville, work in Leesburg and have the opportunity to go to the City on an afternoon visit. But to take the time to visit local farms, hear from our farmers about the decisions they are making to be successful in an urbanizing area, and to not simply tour the city but learn what goes on behind those walls – was a real treat.
Living in Loudoun I feel that we are the gateway between traditional farming and niche farming – both literally and figuratively. Many of our farmers, tenured or new to the seen, have to work to educate the public about their methods, the reason for the farming techniques they select and why the feel this is best for them from a business standpoint and best for the public from a health and food supply angle. One of the things I am interested in learning through the VALOR experience is how to better help people from all walks of life better understand agricultural practices and to make better decisions and EDUCATED decisions for themselves. I struggle to explain to my non-ag friends and neighbors why farmers do what they do; and that the large majority do it with all the best intentions for our society, the environment and the animals where involved.
So when I had an opportunity to visit with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) I was interested, apprehensive and curious as to how the meeting would go coming from a family farm and having the perspective as the “Farmer’s Daughter”. Since 1971, CSPI has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science. During our meeting we learned that CSPI is responsible for consistency in food labeling that you see on all food products; they were the watchdog that questioned the fast food companies and in particular “happy meals”; and they most recently have been working on food safety for large scale vegetable producers and are honing in on protocols for farmers to ensure food safety. They look at these public interest topics and put scientific reasoning behind their message and efforts.
While I am not sure I align with all positions that CSPI takes on issues, it is good to know that there are groups questioning the way things are done, focusing on public health and debunking myths that some of the public holds to be truths. And the visit with CSPI helped me gain ground on my ability to advocate for Agriculture and have healthy discussions with the public about food and ag related issues.