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White House and USDA Honor Beginning Farmer “Champions of Change”

July 30, 2014

champions group

Champions of Change with Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Krysta Harden

On Tuesday, July 29, the White House honored 15 “Champions of Change” working to build a strong foundation for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.  The champions were also recognized at the U.S. Department of Agriculture  (USDA) on Monday, July 28.  The White House Champions of Change programs honor everyday Americans doing extraordinary things in their communities, this week recognizing those who are working to address the pressing need to cultivate the next generations of farmers and ranchers.

Among those recognized were Minnesotan farmers Ryan and Tiffany Batalden, who were nominated by the Land Stewardship Project, an NSAC member organization.  The Bataldens grow certified organic corn, soybeans, oilseeds, and small grains on 380 acres in Lamberton, Minnesota.  They also raise livestock and have a direct-market popcorn business called Patriot Pops.

Ryan, Tiffany, Deputy Sec

Ryan and Tiffany Batalden with Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden

Lindsey Lusher Shute, Co-founder and Executive Director of NSAC member National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), was also honored at the White House.  NYFC advocates for policy change, provides business services, and creates networking opportunities for that next generation.  Lindsey and her husband own and manage Hearty Roots Community Farm, a diversified vegetable farm in Clermont, New York.

At USDA, the champions heard from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, who expressed their gratitude for the champions’ work and commitment to strengthening the next generation of producers.  Two panels of USDA officials then expanded upon the wide range of USDA programs available to help their efforts, including conservation, credit, rural development, and research initiatives.

At the White House the next day, the champions again heard from the Deputy Secretary, who highlighted her personal commitment to cultivating the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

“One of the reasons this is so important to me is I’m facing some of these same decisions at home.  My parents are in their early 70s.  My daddy still farms.  We look at this everyday…We’re facing what’s going to happen next.  I keep looking around in my home area about who is going to be there.  Who is going to step up?  It may be a young woman.  It may be a returning veteran.  It may be a socially disadvantaged farmer.  It may be an immigrant, who came here as worker and has decided to stay and raise their family here.  That’s what we’re celebrating today.”

The White House event also featured two panel discussions, providing the champions a chance to share their stories.  The Bataldens spoke of their work to keep the family farm going while also trying some things differently – diversifying the types of crops they grow and recognizing that the strength of the farm is in that diversification.  They are able to spread out the risk through different crops and a small herd of livestock.  The direct marking of their red, white, and blue “Patriot Pops” has also been an innovative addition to their operation in recent years.

On the second panel Linsdey shared how NYFC brought beginning farmers together to address the critical challenges that they are up against, such as access to capital and the ability to find and purchase affordable land to farm.  The champions spoke to a wide range of experiences, including conservation programs that have benefited beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, hydroponic greenhouses, multi-generational livestock operations, and other personal and farming stories from across the country.


Ben and Lindsey Shute of Hearty Roots Community Farm, Martha Calderon and Esmeralda Sandoval, North Carolina farmers with Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI), and Lilia McFarland, USDA New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program Coordinator

Sam Kass, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisory for Nutrition Policy provided closing remarks at the White House, expressing gratitude for the significant role that the Champions, as well other leaders across the country, will play to ensure the strength of the next generation of farmers and ranchers, supporting American agriculture and our rural communities.

More information on the White House Champions of Change series is available here.

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers

One response to “White House and USDA Honor Beginning Farmer “Champions of Change””

  1. […] can read more about the program and events at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog and Southeast Ag […]